Thu, 15 March 2018
India takes nuclear non-proliferation very seriously: Sitharaman

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23:49   India takes nuclear non-proliferation very seriously: Sitharaman
India takes nuclear non-proliferation very seriously and unlike some of its neighbours, it does not believe in "dirty bombs", Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said today, in an oblique reference to Pakistan.

Sitharaman, while speaking at a book release function, said India is complying with nuclear non-proliferation regulations despite not being a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty.
"We are signing nuclear treaties as a commitment to non-proliferation and are not supportive of illegal spread, she said.
"Unlike some of our neighbours, India does not believe in dirty bombs, we take non-proliferation very seriously," she said.

Sitharaman also said infiltration bids from across the border with Pakistan have not come down.
"We are remaining alert, we will not entertain infiltration," she said.

On the issue of rising militancy-related incidents in Kashmir, the minister said the government is working with the state government to deal with the issue.
23:30   Pranab Mukherjee Foundation launched
Former President Pranab Mukherjee and industrialist Ratan Tata launched 'Pranab Mukherjee Foundation' on Thursday.

The foundation aims to work in the field of research, education, and rural development.

Senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, party president Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, former vice president Mohammad Hamid Ansari, Ratan Tata, senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader LK Advani and many other leaders were present at the event.

The former first citizen has been passionate about improving the standard of education and research in the country.

During his tenure at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the 83-year-old started monthly interactions with vice-chancellors of central universities and professors of IITs and other prominent institutes.

Mukherjee started his career as a teacher in a college before joining politics. After heading various ministries, he was elected as the President in 2012.

-- ANI
23:04   Russia to retaliate soon against UK with its own diplomat expulsions
Tensions between London and Moscow over the attempted murder of a former Russian spy ratcheted up another level Thursday after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that a move to expel British diplomats from Russia would "absolutely" be going ahead.

Speaking at a question-and-answer forum in Moscow, Lavrov did not provide a time frame but said the expulsions would take place "soon," state media reported.

The move follows Britain's decision Wednesday to kick 23 Russian diplomats out of the country after concluding that Russia was responsible for a nerve agent attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England earlier this month.

It will be the single biggest expulsion of Russian diplomats from Britain in more than 30 years, Prime Minister Theresa May announced Wednesday, as she set out a raft of measures intended to target Russian assets and strengthen UK defenses.

On Thursday, Lavrov accused May of grandstanding in her response to the incident, and said the Kremlin response would "come very soon."

"You understand that as polite people, we will first inform our British colleagues of the response. Unlike them, grabbing the microphone in order to accuse Russia of everything," Lavrov said.

A spokesman for Vladimir Putin described the UK's accusations as "unfounded" and said "it won't be long until" the Russian President makes a decision on retaliatory measures.
22:29   Power and tact needed in Kashmir: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Thursday called for using strength and tact to counter "forces seeking to divide the people" of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and said trouble-makers only understood the language of power.

There was need for "shakti" (power) and "yukti" (tact) to ensure that "truth prevails", Bhagwat said.

The Indian Army, with its "efforts, sacrifices and dedication", had maintained "shakti", which was needed because trouble-makers "only understand the language of power", he said.
Stressing that Kashmir was an integral part of India, he said the people of the Indian sub-continent belonged to one nation and had the same DNA.

"The Kashmir problem should not be viewed as a problem...The root of the problem is that we have forgotten our unity and that Bharat is one (nation)," Bhagwat said.
22:07   Modi's arrogance led to party's bypoll loss: Shatrughan Sinha
Controversial BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha slammed his own party after the debacle it suffered at the hands of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Samajwadi Party in the recent Uttar Pradesh and Bihar Lok Sabha bypolls.

In a veiled attack on PM Narendra Modi, he said that arrogance, over-confidence and short temper was damaging the saffron party.

"I have been repeatedly saying that arrogance, short temper and over confidence are biggest killers in democratic politics, whether it comes from Trump, Mitron or opposition leaders," Sinha tweeted.

In another tweet, he said that the by-elections' results were a message from the people to top leadership of the party (read PM and Amit Shah) to fasten their seat belts ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

"Sir.. UP-Bihar by-elections results convey to you and our people to fasten our seat belts," he tweeted.

Sinha warned his party leadership that the future is turbulent for the BJP and that he wished his party gets over this crisis soon.
21:33   UK's Queen gives her consent for Harry-Meghan wedding
Well, that's a relief.

Queen Elizabeth II has given her formal consent to the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

The British monarch has issued a declaration consenting "to a Contract of Matrimony between My Most Dearly Beloved Grandson Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales and Rachel Meghan Markle."

The prince, fifth in line to the British throne, and the American actress are to marry May 19 at Windsor Castle.

Alongside the declaration that was made public Thursday, the queen signed an Instrument of Consent, a formal notice of approval, transcribed in calligraphy and issued under the Great Seal of the Realm.

Harry is among a handful of senior royals who must seek the monarch's permission to marry or have their descendants disqualified from succession to the crown.
21:14   UK, US, France, Germany 'abhor' nerve agent attack on Russian ex-spy
Britain, France, Germany and the US today "abhorred" a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy and his daughter, saying it is an assault on the UK's sovereignty and threatens the security of all nations.

In a rare joint statement, the four countries condemned the "first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War" and called on Russia to address all questions related to the attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

"We, the leaders of France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom, abhor the attack that took place against Sergei and Yulia Skripal," they said.

The UK government has linked the attack to Soviet-designed nerve agents known as Novichok.

Novichok refers to a group of deadly chemical compounds reportedly developed by the Soviet government in the 1970s and 1980s, some of which were adopted by the Soviet army in 1990.

21:00   Inaccurate depiction of tricolour at Trudeau event: India takes up matter with Canada
Canada has conveyed to India that presence of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at an event last month where the Indian map was "inaccurately" depicted, did not reflect its endorsement.

Trudeau had attended a conclave of Young Change Makers on February 24 where the Indian map was reportedly shown incorrectly.

External affairs ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said India had taken up the matter with Canada.

"We had taken up the matter with the Canadian side. We were informed that the inaccurate depiction of the Indian flag happened at the Young Change Maker's conclave held on Feb 24 which was attended by the Canadian Prime Minister," Kumar said during a media briefing.

He said the Canadian government has conveyed to India that the event was organised by a third party and the map and its backdrop were an artiste's creation.

"We have been told that they do not imply endorsement or acceptance by the government of Canada," he said.

India's map shown at the event reportedly shown Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Akshai Chin and Gujarat incorrectly.

Replying to another question, Kumar said the visit of a Chinese dignitary here has been cancelled as he had to attend a meeting of China's Communist Party.

-- PTI
20:38   US announces Russia sanctions over election meddling
The Trump administration announced on Thursday it is enacting new sanctions on Russia, including individuals indicted last month by special counsel Robert Mueller, in a sweeping new effort to punish Moscow for its attempts to interfere in the 2016 US election.

The measures come a month-and-a-half after the administration missed a congressionally mandated deadline to impose the new sanctions, which led to questions over US President Donald Trump's willingness to punish Moscow for its cyber intrusion. 

The new measures, however delayed, amount to the most stringent punishment yet by Trump for Russia's election interference.

In announcing the measures, the administration also disclosed a Russian attempt to penetrate the US energy grid, and said the new sanctions would punish actors for their participation in other major cyberattacks.

The new punishments include sanctions on the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm that produced divisive political posts on American social media platforms during the 2016 presidential election. 

20:13   After Vadra's tribute to Hawking, BJP member asks if he's trolling Rahul
A representative of the Bharatiya Janata Party used Robert Vadras tribute to the late physicist Stephen Hawking to take a dig at Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

Hawking passed away early on Wednesday, following which several people paid tribute to him on social media.

Vadra, who is Rahuls brother-in-law, paid tribute to physicist on Twitter.

Following Vadras tweet, Priti Gandhi, who goes by the Twitter handle Mrs Gandhi and has claimed affiliation with the BJP, used part of a quote in the tweet, I am just a child who has never grown up, to ask whether he was referring to Rahul. Tagging Vadra, she asked him whether he was trolling Rahul. 
19:39   Kejriwal to apologise to Arun Jaitley, others to end legal mess
Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party, which has accumulated over 20 defamation cases filed against its leaders has decided to start resolving them. It will apologise, AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj told NDTV after Chief Minister Kejriwal retracted his allegations against former Punjab Cabinet Minister Bikram Singh Majithia whom he had accused last year of being part of the drug trade in Punjab.

"Now I've learnt that allegations are unfounded... I hereby withdraw all my statements and allegations made against you and apologise," Kejriwal says in the offer of regret furnished in the court.

Sources told NDTV that the chief minister would also reach out to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who had sued Kejriwal for accusing him of corruption during his 13-year tenure as the head of the main cricket administration body for Delhi.

This is going to be the template on which the party would deal with all cases filed against its leaders.

Sources said the AAP had come around to the point that fighting the legal battles was "exhausting and taking too much time" and the party leaders want to focus on the work on hand in Delhi.

Last August, Kejriwal had also apologised to BJP leader from Haryana Avtar Singh Bhadana to end a bitterly-fought defamation suit. Bhadana had been called corrupt by the AAP leader back in 2014.
19:02   Aircraft grounding: IndiGo cancels 488 flights, GoAir 138
Passengers are likely to face harrowing times with IndiGo and GoAir deciding to cancel more than 600 flights this month, of which 480 are by IndiGo alone, following grounding of 11 A320 neo planes with faulty Pratt & Whitney engines.

The cancellations by the two budget carriers, which operate more than 1,200 flights daily on average, may significantly disrupt the summer schedule. There was no immediate clarity about the way possible compensation and alternative choices would be made available to the passengers already having tickets.

IndiGo, which has the largest share in the domestic aviation market, would be cancelling as many as 488 flights during the period March 15-31. GoAir has decided to cancel a total of 138 flights between March 15-22, as per announcements made on their respective websites.
According to the curtailed flight schedule submitted to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and posted on the airline's website, IndiGo would not operate 36 daily flights between March 15 and March 21.
Another 18 daily flights would remain cancelled between March 22 and March 24. The number of flights cancelled between March 25 and March 31 stands at 16 per day, the airline indicated.
This takes the total number of cancelled flights to 488 till the end of this month.
The revised schedule of Wadia group-promoted GoAir showed that the airline has cancelled seven daily flights to 10 destinations between March 16 and March 24 apart from cancelling six services per week between March 15 and March 22. On the whole, 138 flights stand cancelled.

-- PTI
18:42   Modi to open Indian Science Congress in Imphal tomorrow
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the 105th session of the Indian Science Congress in Imphal tomorrow.

After inaugurating the event, he would lay the foundation stone of the National Sports University, a thousand anganwadi centres and 19 residential complexes for teachers, doctors and nurses, an official statement said.

The prime minister will also inaugurate the Luwangpokpa Multi Sports Complex and address a gathering.

The Indian Science Congress is an annual event, usually held in the first week of January. Top scientists from across the country and the world attend the event.

The last Science Congress was held at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh.

-- PTI
18:21   RJD win will make Araria hub of terrorism: Union Minister Giriraj Singh
Union Minister Giriraj Singh on Thursday claimed that the victory of RJD's Sarfaraz Alam from Araria Lok Sabha seat would make the place a hub of terrorism, which would be a danger to not only Bihar but also the country.

Singh's controversial remarks invited strong comments from opposition parties, with RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav saying the BJP should withdraw support from Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar if it did not believe in his leadership.

A day after the BJP suffered reverses in Lok Sabha bypolls, Singh told reporters that the RJD had spawned an "extremist ideology" to fulfil its political ambitions.

"The RJD has started a new political culture for its political ambitions... They have spawned an extremist ideology which is a danger not only to Bihar but also to the country in the coming days. It will become a hub of terrorism," he claimed.

Singh, seen as a Hindutva hardliner within the BJP, has ignited controversies with his fiery comments in the past as well.
17:58   When BJP wins, it credits vikas; when it loses, it shamelessly blames caste
Responding to the BJP's shock defeat in Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha bypolls, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath blamed it on the "unnatural' alliance of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP).

"The bypolls were a contest between development and caste and, yet again, caste has won," a BJP spokesperson in Uttar Pradesh said.

The BJP's offering of vikas (development) is how the party explains its election victories. When it loses, caste gets the blame. 

Read the column here.
17:53   Stocks fall for 3rd day on rising trade worries
The BSE Sensex fell by 150 points to close at 33,685.54 in a volatile trade, extending losses for a third day as banking, FMCG and IT shares fell amid fresh LoU fraud scare and intensifying trade war worries. Banking stocks led by Yes Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and SBI came under heavy selling pressure after the CBI registered a fresh case relating to "fraudulent" issuance of Rs 9 crore of LoUs to Chandri Papers and Allied Products by PNB's Brady House branch.

The broader NSE Nifty fell below the key 10,400-mark and touched a low of 10,346.20, before ending down 50.75 points, or 0.49 per cent, at 10,360.15.

 The World Bank and Fitch projected India's GDP growth at 7.3 per cent for the next financial year and accelerate further to 7.5 per cent in 2019-20, which helped limit the fall.
Telugu Desam Party to hold Politburo meeting tomorrow.
17:34   Pak envoy being called for 'routine' consultation: MEA
Hours after Pakistan decided to call back its envoy to India, the Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday clarified that the Pakistan High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood has been called for "consultation" only, and it was a routine procedure.

"Whenever there is any issue to be discussed, any foreign ambassador of that country is called for consultation. It is not a recall," MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said during a press briefing.

The development has taken place after missions of both the countries complained of alleged harassment of its diplomats in the two countries.

Kumar said the issue of alleged harassment of Indian diplomats has been raised and taken up with the authorities in Islamabad.

"We will not give details of the issue which we have taken up with the Pakistan government. This is something which should be taken up through established diplomatic channels and not published in media. We expect them to look into and resolve those issues as soon as possible," the spokesperson stated. -- ANI
17:27   Haryana govt nod for death penalty for rape of children below 12
Haryana Assembly passes a bill advocating capital punishment for rape of children below 12-years of age.
17:25   Rs 20 Cr allotted to convert Jaya's residence into memorial
The Tamil Nadu government has allotted Rs 20 crore to convert 'Veda Nilayam', the official residence of late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in Chennai into a memorial, Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam announced today.

This was in addition to the construction of a "grand memorial" at her burial site at the famous Marina beach in the city, at a cost of Rs 50.80 crore, he said in his budget speech in the assembly.

Officials have recently commenced preliminary work on the proposed conversion of Jayalalithaa's residence in Poes Garden locality here into a memorial. Jayalalithaa died on December 5, 2016. -- PTI

Image: The TN government says it will build a 'grand memorial' at her burial site at Marina beach at a cost of Rs 50.80 crore.
17:14   TDP set to exit NDA, will back YSR Congress's no-confidence motion
The Telugu Desam Party is all set to break its alliance with the BJP and could exit the NDA as early as Friday. The party has also decided to support the YSR Congress Partys no-confidence motion in Parliament tomorrow.

TDP president and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has called a politburo meeting Friday to take a final call on the issue of exiting from the NDA. 
Sources said that a majority of the members including MPs, MLAs and senior leaders have already told Naidu to quit NDA. This is the final option. The CM is livid that instead of resolving issues faced by the state, the BJP is indulging in dirty politics that it played in Tamil Nadu, TDP leader Kambhampati Rammohan Rao said.

On Thursday, in a teleconference with his MPs, Naidu accused the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of using YSR Congress Party and actor K Pavan Kalyans Jena Sena Party to target him and the TDP. 

Naidu told the MPs that Modi was applying the same strategy that was used in Tamil Nadu where BJP supported OPS faction against EPS in the AIADMK. 

Naidu said that instead of addressing the issues raised by the state such as allocating special funds, bridging revenue gap or special category status as promised in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, PM Modi was using the Tamil Nadu template to pit YSRCP and Jena Sena against TDP.

Naidu also referred to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar bypoll results on Wednesday in which the BJP lost, and opined that there is a strong anti-incumbency against the BJP and Modi.
On March 8, the TDP withdrew its two ministers from the Union Cabinet, accusing the BJP of reneging on its promises to give special category status to Andhra Pradesh.
17:00   Fans demand posthumous Nobel Prize for Stephen Hawking
Fans have taken to Twitter to demand posthumous Nobel Prize for theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, who died peacefully on Wednesday, March 14.

After the news of Hawking's death broke the internet, a fan shared a picture of the scientist and wrote, "R.I.P. Stephen Hawking. #StephenHawking. Posthumous Nobel. It's time".

One fan tweeted, "Could not be more true - maybe just name a prize for him as well - a mind that could see time and space in a new way and remain connected enough and caring enough to try and explain it to the rest of us. We were lucky to have met him."

Another fan wrote, "He doesn't need a posthumous award. The inscription on the tomb of Sur Christopher Wren would be a perfect citation for the achievement of Professor Hawking. LECTOR SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS CIRCUMSPICE".

While the late Stephen Hawking has always been regarded as one of the most brilliant minds in the science, the renowned physicist was eluded by arguably the world's most prestigious award, the Nobel Prize, his entire career.

-- ANI
16:29   Let bygones be bygones, says Akhilesh on bitter history with BSP
Enthused by his party's strong showing in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav indicated today that his party was keen on burying its bitter rivalry with Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party saying sometimes "past incidents have to be forgotten".

Yadav, whose party wrested both the high-profile seats from the ruling BJP with BSP's backing, claimed the victory margin of his candidates would have been larger, had paper ballots been used.

Yadav also said that his party's relations with Congress too continued to be good.

Yesterday, in a scene which seemed unimaginable only till the recent past, Yadav had rushed to the residence of the BSP supremo shortly after his candidates emerged victorious and thanked her.

"Samajwadis always give due respect to all and that is why today we have good relations with all. People were recalling old incidents but sometimes they have to be forgotten," Yadav told mediapersons in Lucknow.

The SP and the BSP, bitter foes of UP politics, have been at daggers drawn ever since the infamous state guest house case of 1995.

In June 1995, Samajwadi Party workers, who were angry with Mayawati for withdrawing support to Mulayam Singh Yadav, had targeted the BSP chief who was present at the state guest house on Meera Bai Marg in Lucknow.

Following SP's win in the bypolls, there has been much speculation about UP's two biggest regional parties joining hands to take on a formidable BJP in the 2019 general elections. On ties with the Congress, with which SP had an electoral truck in the last Assembly elections, Yadav said the good relations would continue. "We both are young and together will have to find a way out to the problems facing the country. Rahul Gandhi has congratulated me as well as other senior leaders and I have thanked them all," Yadav said referring to the Congress chief. -- PTI
16:17   The curious case of AIADMK's tryst with France
Former Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa's birthday was celebrated in Varanasi on March 12 as decided earlier on by the party. However, French President Emmanuel Macron's tryst with Varanasi was scheduled for the same day.

Macron was given a traditional welcome with a shower of flower petals, a shehnai recital and chanting of mantras before he took a boat ride along with PM Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath between Assi and Dashwamedh ghats.

People gathered in large numbers along the ghats waved flags of India and France.

And this is precisely where the problem arose.

The AIADMK had festooned the road from the Varanasi airport to the venue where Jayalalithaa's birthday celebrations were to be held with party flags.

The AIADMK flag is a tricolour of black, white and red, which is rarely seen in the BJP bastion of Varanasi. The French flag, incidentally is also a tricolour -- red, white and blue.

The Uttar Pradesh police, nervous that the visiting dignitary would mistake the AIADMK flag as a blacked-out French flag, had the party flags removed.

Obviously, the AIADMK is peeved. 
15:59   SP hints at alliance with BSP
Samajwadi Party leader Ram Govind Chaudhary on Thursday hoped for an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party in future and congratulated chief Mayawati, as the SP, with the support of BSP, registered victory in both the Lok Sabha seats.

Chaudhary said, "I would like to congratulate Mayawatiji and give my greetings to her. According to my view, there should be an alliance in future and it will definitely happen."

The BJP received an unexpected blow in the by-elections after it lost both Gorakhpur and Phulpur seats, which were previously held by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya respectively.

Both the seats, especially Gorakhpur, were hence seen as a matter of prestige for the party ruling in both state and Centre.

In the last Assembly elections, the BJP had dethroned the Samajwadi Party from the state government, but the recent bypolls saw a turn in the electoral mood. -- ANI

Also read: Explained: Why Akhilesh, Mayawati joined hands
15:45   Thundershowers likely in Mumbai this weekend
Mumbai is likely to experience thundershowers from tomorrow. The India Meteorological Department has predicted thundershowers in the state and some parts of the city starting Friday, the Indian Express reports. 

"There is a depression over South West Bay of Bengal and this will be moving westward and entering the Arabian Sea. This will bring moisture to the state," said Ajay Kumar, scientist, IMD.

According to the IMD, rainfall is expected only in the south Konkan region on the first day, followed by two days of isolated rainfall in most parts of Maharashtra.
15:30   INX Media case: SC protects Karti from arrest by ED till March 26
The Supreme Court today extended till March 26 the interim relief granted by the Delhi High Court to Karti Chidambaram from arrest in the INX Media money laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate.

The apex court also transferred to itself the matter pending before the Delhi High Court keeping in view that several high courts in the country have given conflicting views on interpretation of section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) which relates to ED's power to arrest an accused.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said it would hear the matter on March 26 and the top court would answer the question regarding the interpretation of section 19 of the PMLA.

The apex court's order came hours after the high court extended Chidambaram's protection from arrest in the ED case from March 20 to March 22. Karti Chidambaram, son of senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, is in jail in connection with the INX Media corruption case lodged by the CBI. -- PTI
15:14   At Sonia's dinner Rahul cozied up to Pawar
Congress president Rahul Gandhi met Sharad Pawar last night, hours after the BJP lost two vital parliamentary strongholds in Uttar Pradesh to the combined force of the Samajwadi Party and Mayawati's BSP.

Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule was also in yesterday's meeting, which took place at her home in Delhi. In fact, it was Sule who organised the meeting between her father and Rahul.

Rahul has always had a good working relationship with Sule and confides about political developments to her.  

When Sonia Gandhi hosted a dinner for leaders of 17 opposition parties on Tuesday, it was Rahul Gandhi who who was seen engaging Sharad Pawar with both seated at the same table.

This Rahul-Pawar meeting marks the Congress president's attempts to bring together anti-BJP parties and also explore an alliance to challenge the BJP and Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, in the general election due in 2019.
15:00   Akhilesh blames EVMs for low vote margins
SP chief Akhilesh Yadav today said had electronic voting machines worked without a glitch, the victory margins of his party's candidates in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha by-elections would have been higher. The ballot paper system was the best way of voting, the SP leader said, adding that it helped the people air their anger.

"Had the EVMs worked smoothly and had no time been wasted (in the voting process), the victory margins of the Samajwadi candidates would have been much higher. In several EVM machines, votes had already been cast (even before polling began)." he told the media in Lucknow.

Yadav, who congratulated the two victorious candidates in the Uttar Pradesh by-elections, said the party had complained about the EVMS and "the Election Commission should take note of it". "The entire anger of the voters could not come out through the EVMs. Had ballot papers been used the impact of the anger would have been clear," he stressed. --  PTI
14:37   Pak summons its envoy in India for consultations over 'harassment'
Upping the ante, Pakistan today said it has decided to call back its High Commissioner in India Sohail Mahmood for consultations after repeated incidence of "harassment" of its diplomatic staff in New Delhi. Foreign Office spokesman Muhammad Faisal said that the Indian government failed to take notice of the increasing incidents of intimidation of Pakistani diplomats, their families and staffers by its intelligence agencies.

"Our High Commissioner in New Delhi has been asked to come to Islamabad for consultations," he said.

On Tuesday, the Foreign Office had summoned India's Deputy High Commissioner J P Singh over the alleged harassment of its officials and their families in New Delhi. The Pakistan Foreign Ministry claimed that the staff and their families have been facing "harassment, intimidation and outright violence" from Indian state agencies in recent weeks.

Faisal today alleged that this deliberate continuing bullying was not confined to a single isolated event and "continues unabated despite repeated official protests lodged with the Indian High Commission in New Delhi and also with the Indian Ministry of External Affairs at the highest (level)."

He said the Pakistan High Commission shared with the External Affairs Ministry photographs identifying the individuals, who forcibly halted and took pictures of the officers but regrettably no positive action was taken by the Indian side so far.

"The total apathy and failure of the Indian Government to put a halt to these despicable incidents, sparing not even young children, indicates both a lack of capacity to protect foreign diplomats posted in India or a more reprehensible, complicit unwillingness to do so," he said.

He said that under the Vienna Convention, the safety and the security of Pakistani diplomats and their families is the responsibility of the Indian government. He claimed that in the latest incident, Indian officials stopped the car of the deputy high commissioner for 40 minutes and harassed the occupants of the vehicle.

"Pakistan will go to any limit to ensure safety of the staff of (its) high commission in India," he said. He said India should not drag Pakistan in its electoral politics. Faisal said that Pakistan wants peace in the region and was against any arms race. PTI
14:29   Rahul meets Sharad Pawar, Didi next
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has met NCP chief Sharad Pawar to step up efforts and put up an united front against the BJP ahead of the 2019 general elections, sources said today. The meeting with the National Congress Party leader comes amid the party's poor performance and loss in the bypolls in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Gandhi met Pawar last night within hours of the BJP's defeat in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha bypolls in Uttar Pradesh. The meeting took place at the latter's residence, they said. It has been learnt that they discussed efforts of putting up a joint opposition front against the saffron party, the sources in the Congress said.

The meeting comes a day after UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi hosted a dinner for opposition leaders, which was attended by leaders of 20 parties including the Congress.

The Congress chief is also likely to meet TMC president and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee soon. Banerjee is expected to attend a joint opposition meet being hosted by Sharad Pawar on March 28, the sources said.

The call for putting up a common front by the opposition in the 2019 elections came after BJP's yesterday defeat in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, the constituencies of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Aditynath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya.  --  PTI
14:21   Media should be more responsible, says CJI as SC stays charges against Wire
The Supreme Court today asked a Gujarat trial court not to proceed till April 12 with the criminal defamation complaint filed by BJP president Amit Shah's son Jay Shah against the news portal The Wire and its journalists.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked Jay Shah and others, who have filed the complaint against the scribes, to respond within two weeks to the plea filed by the journalists against the Gujarat High Court's order, refusing to quash summons issued against them by the trial court.

The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, observed that the media should be more responsible and said it cannot write whatever it feels about anyone. The chief justice, while repeatedly stressing that he was not commenting on the case before it, also said that sometimes journalists write in a way that amounts to "sheer contempt of court".

"I have told many times about Freedom of Speech and Expression. We are not going to gag the media.The question of gagging the media does not arise. But the press should be more responsible," he said. "How can anyone write whatever they feel about anyone. There are limits," the chief justice observed.

"... they are writing sometimes which amounts to sheer contempt of court," he added. The Gujarat High Court had on January 8 rejected a petition filed by the news portal, seeking quashing of a criminal defamation case filed against it by Jay Shah over an article related to his company.

The high court rejected the petition on the grounds that the article, "The Golden Touch of Jay Amit Shah", is per say "defamatory" and the trial court should proceed with the case.

Jay Shah had moved the lower court alleging criminal defamation by the petitioners after the article published by the website claimed his company's turnover grew exponentially after the BJP-led government came to power at the Centre in 2014.

After the suit was filed on October 9, 2017, the court initiated proceedings against them under CrPC's section 202 (to inquire into a case to decide whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding).

The suit has been filed against the author of the article Rohini Singh, founding editors of the news portal Siddharth Varadarajan, Siddharth Bhatia and M K Venu, managing editor Monobina Gupta, public editor Pamela Philipose and the Foundation for Independent Journalism. The foundation publishes The Wire.

Jay Shah has separately filed a civil defamation suit of Rs 100 crore against the website over the article. Jay Shah had rejected the charge made in the article, insisting the story was "false, derogatory and defamatory".
-- PTI

Image: Amit Shah with his son, Jay.
Jammu & Kashmir: Terrorists attack BJP leader Anwar Khan at Khanmoh in Pulwama district. One policeman injured; More details awaited.
13:54   Pak summons its envoy in India for consultations over 'harassment'
Pakistan today said it has decided to call back its High Commissioner in India, Sohail Mahmood, for consultations after repeated incidence of "harassment" of its diplomatic staff in New Delhi. Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Muhammad Faisal said that India failed to take notice of the increasing incidents of intimidation.

"Our High Commissioner in New Delhi has been asked to come to Islamabad for consultations," he said. The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday claimed that the staff and their families have been facing "harassment, intimidation and outright violence" from Indian state agencies in recent weeks. -- PTI
13:43   The Hindi-speaking Aussie who loves India
Charles 'Biharilal' Thomson, is an Australian who speaks fluent Hindi learnt on the streets, trains and buses of India's hinterland.

Biharilal tells's Archana Masih how India has bewitched him.

Do read
13:41   Banners hailing Dinakaran as future CM usher in new party
Update on TTV Dinakaran's party launch.

It was a show of strength today by sidelined AIADMK leader TTV Dinakaran who named his party after late leader J Jayalalithaa and unveiled its flag amid thousands of cadres who hailed him as the next Tamil Nadu "chief minister".

Naming his party "Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam" at an event in Madurai, Dinakaran said the new outfit would capture power in the state.

Dinakaran, who has the support of several dissident party workers and leaders, arrived in style in an open-top van acknowledging greetings from several supporters who had lined-up on streets in Melur with placards sporting his image.

Several party workers gave him the traditional 'poornakumbham', considered auspicious and a sign of respect. It has mango leaves and a coconut in a decorated traditional vase or pot. Banners and hoardings hailing Dinakaran as the "future chief minister" were put up at several roads and junctions.

Former ministers V Senthil Balaji and P Palaniappan, senior leader S Anbazhagan, disqualified MLAs and Dhinakaran loyalists, including P Vetrivel and Thanga Tamil Selvan, attended the event.

Giant hoardings of Dhinakrana along with AIADMK founder M G Ramachandran, Jayalalithaa, Dravidian icon C N Annadurai, and jailed leader V K Sasikala were also put up for the event. The venue had a green backdrop (Jayalalithaa's favourite colour).

As soon as he arrived, a popular yesteryear number from an MGR film 'vangaiyya vathiyar ayya', (welcome our leader) was played. Dinakaran paid floral tributes to MGR and Jayalalithaa. Notwithstanding the move, he had said yesterday that his camp has not given up its right over the two-leaves symbol.

Cadres at the event claimed that it "overshadowed" party functions, including the Ilangyar Pasarai-Illam Pengal Pasarai at Theni, held by "betrayers" (ruling AIADMK led by K Palaniswami).

The 'pasarai,' event had witnessed an attendance of about 50,000 cadres, according to the ruling AIADMK. -- PTI
13:20   Pravin Kumar Nishad is the David who beat Goliath in Gorakhpur
So, who exactly is Pravin Kumar Nishad, the man who has given India's electoral politics, new hope?

"Nishad has joined the roll of honour of the giant slayers in India's electoral history but for the 29-year-old, the names of Ravindra Pratap Singh and Raj Narain invokes nothing. Ravindra Pratap and Narain respectively vanquished Sanjay Gandhi and Indira Gandhi from Amethi and Rae Bareli in the 1977 elections after Emergency was lifted. In Pravin's words, he breached the "Gorakhpeeth fortress', seat of the Nath "sampradaya', a Hindu monastic order of which the present custodian is Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh's chief minister. "

Read the profile here.
12:52   Rajinikanth in Rishikesh
In Rishikesh, Rajinikanth meets saints at Swami Dayananda Ashram. 

Rajinikanth began his annual spiritual pilgrimage on Saturday and reached an ashram in Uttarakhand on Tuesday.

The actor till now has refused to answer any questions about politics, stating that he has not become a full-fledged politician yet.

Earlier this year, Rajinikanth had announced that he would be entering active politics and contesting all the 234 assembly seats in Tamil Nadu in 2021. He has not yet announced his party's name yet.
12:31   As SP began winning bypolls this is what Akhilesh told his MPs
Red seems to be the colour of the season, and after the Kisan Long March, it's made an appearance in Parliament.

Yesterday, as the trends for the two seats -- Gorakhpur and Phulpur -- in the UP bypolls showed the SP-BSP alliance emerging victorious -- SP MPs in the Upper House wipped out their red caps and wore them in the House.

It seems SP chief Akhilesh Yadav called his party colleague and MP Prof Ram GopalYadav suggesting that SP MPs should wear the red topi.

The MPs wore their red topis at 2 pm when the Rajya Sabha reassembled after lunch and later to the Central Hall as well. It was a visible celebration of their hard-fought victory in UP CM Yogi Adityanath's bastion of Gorakhpur.

Seeing the reds in her midst, Jaya Bachchan, who will continue as the party's Rajya Sabha MP, gamely asked for a red cap.

As an MP pulled out a cap from a packet he was carrying and gave it to her, BJP MPs observing the bonhomie, wondered why Naresh Aggarwal was missing in parliament.

As it may be recalled, Aggarwal had quit the SP to join the BJP angered by the party's decision to give Jaya Bachchan the RS ticket. His debut speech in the BJP, calling Bachchan a dancer and actor, drew flak from the BJP and the entire opposition.

Image: Samajwadi Party supporters celebrate their success in Phulpur and Gorakhpur bypolls in Allahabad. Photo: PTI
12:06   Dinakaran a 'shani' that has gone now: AIADMK MLA
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) MLA D Jayakumar on Thursday took a jibe at rebel leader TTV Dinakaran, terming his exit as good riddance, after the latter launched his own political party.

"It was basically a mosquito, when it came and when it flew back no one knew. It was a 'shani' over our party which has now gone," Jayakumar told reporters.

Earlier in the day, Dhinakaran launched his party, 'Amma Makkal Munetra Kazhagam', amid much fanfare, in Melur.

In December, the sidelined AIADMK leader won the key RK Nagar Assembly seat, previously held by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalaithaa, as an independent candidate, with pressure cooker as his symbol.

Last year, amid the political turmoil in the state, Dhinakaran had lost the AIADMK party name and the 'two leaves' symbol to the Palaniswami- Panneerselvam faction. -- ANI
11:48   Truth will come out: Tarun Tejpal arrives for hearing
Tarun Tejpal arrives at the Mapusa Court in Goa for hearing in rape case against him, says, 'truth will soon come out'.

A Goa court will on  today start hearing the rape case against the former Tehelka editor-in-chief.

Previously, the court was supposed to hear the case from February 26 to March 1. However, it was postponed after Tejpal informed the court that he has changed his lawyer.

Public Prosecutor, Fransisco Tavora informed that charges against Tejpal have been farmed under section 354-A (sexual harassment), 354-B (assault or use of criminal force on a woman with intent to disrobe), 341 and 342 (punishment for wrongful restraint) and 376 (punishment for rape) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Tavora also informed that "Tejpal has pleaded not guilty."
11:22   AIADMK minister calls TTV's party mosquito
AIADMK minister D Jayakumar on TTV Dinakaran's new party:  "It was basically a mosquito; when it came and when it flew back no one knew. It was a 'shani' over our party which has now gone."
11:08   PNB detects another fraud
Punjab National Bank has detected another fraud at a Mumbai branch of around Rs 9.9 crore, according to a complaint with the police.
Ditto AIADMK MPs also protesting outside Parliament over the Cauvery issue (formation of Cauvery management board).
In Parliament, TDP MPs doing what they did for the last couple of days --  demanding special category status for Andhra Pradesh.
10:54   Telangana CM calls Congress Villain No. 1
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao criticised the Congress party for causing destruction in Telangana since 1956 and termed the party as "Villain No. 1".

During his address to the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, the Chief Minister accused the Congress party of causing destruction in Telangana since 1956.

"In 58 years, Telangana has not been developed. In 2001, I said that Telangana has been neglected and its problems have been ignored and the main villain for Telangana was the Congress party," he added.

The Chief Minister also accused former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru for mixing Telangana in Andhra Pradesh for political benefits.

"Jawaharlal Nehru has mixed Telangana in Andhra Pradesh state at that time and local Congress party members supported him, every time when Telangana agitation started the Congress party has spoiled it many times," he added. -- ANI
Addressing supporters, Dinakaran said, "We win all upcoming elections from now by using latest name and party flag. We will also try to retrieve the two leaves symbol, till then will use cooker symbol,"
10:38   Dinakaran's new party is Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam
Former AIADMK leader and Independent MLA from RK Nagar, TTV Dinakaran, launched his party, the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (Amma's Party for People's Progress)  at Madurai at a rally attended by thousands.

Dinakaran said the aim of the party was to retrieve Amma's party, the AIADMK.

He also launched the party flag, a black, white and red tricolour with the image of Jayalalithaa at the centre.

The rally had huge cutouts of party mentor MG Ramachandran, Dinakaran's nephew VK Sasikala.

Dinakaran had appealed to his supporters and the public to attend the function. The announcement comes days after superstar Kamal Haasan entered the political scene with the launch of his party 'Makkal Needhi Maiam' from Madurai.
10:22   Panama Papers law firm Mossack Fonseca shuts shop
Mossack Fonseca, the offshore law firm whose 11.5 million leaked files were at the heart of the Panama Papers investigation, will close. The law firm will shutter its remaining offices by the end of the month, according to a statement obtained by the the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Read
10:09   Who the BJP workers are blaming for the bypoll loss
Inside a Whatsapp group of BJP workers, here's who they blamed for UP bypoll losses.

"Some posts place the blame squarely on BJP chief Amit Shah. They say the BJP didn't listen to Yogi (by giving the ticket to someone who's not from the Gorakhnath peeth). In its eagerness to snub him, the party forgot it did not have its own standing in Gorakhpur. The BJP exists there only because of the influence of the Gorakhnath peeth. Shah was mistaken to believe, one message said, that the seat was won because of the BJP. He thought anybody who's made to contest Gorakhpur would win. Now he must have understood how Yogi can show the BJP its place."

Do read Shivam Vij's piece here.
09:51   From one star to another
Barack Obama @BarackObama tweets his homage to Stephen Hawking who died yesterday at the age of 76. "Have fun out there among the stars," wrote Obama with this picture with the physicist taken when he met Prof. Hawking in 2012, when he awarded him the Presidents Medal of Freedom.

And Obama's star reference?

This is one of Dr Hawking's memorable quotes.

"Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you dont just give up."?
Fitch projects India's growth to rise to 7.3% next year, 7.5% in 2019-20.
09:15   Dinakaran to announce party name shortly
Sidelined All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader T T V Dinakaran to announce the name of his political party shortly at a rally ground in Melur.

Dinakaran had said on Sunday that he would announce the name of his political party and unveil the flag in Madurai later this week.

'Following the acceptance of our plea in the Delhi high court, a function to announce the name of the party and introduce the party flag will be held on March 15 at Melur in Madurai district,' he had said in a statement.

The Delhi high court, on March 9, allowed Dinakaran's plea for allotment of a common symbol, preferably 'pressure cooker', and a name of his choice for the AIADMK faction led by him.  -- ANI, PTI
09:09   White House indicates additional US action against Chinese imports
US President Donald Trump might take additional action against Chinese products, the White House has indicated.

The US has some $500 billion trade deficit with China. Ever since coming to power, Trump has sought to reduce this trade deficit which he says is mainly due to the unfair trade practices of China.

"His goal is free, fair, and reciprocal trade agreements in which other countries grant American products and American exports just as much access as we grant to their products and their imports into the US. He's going to be pushing for that, and there could be additional actions," White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told reporters today in a gaggle abroad Air Force One.

Shah was responding to a question on media reports that the Trump administration is working to increase import tariff on a number of Chinese products.

Early this month he had imposed a 25 per cent tariff on import of steel and another 10 per cent on aluminium.

"The president campaigned on, believes in strongly, that American workers and American businesses have been ripped off by foreign trade competitors and partners in the past, and he wants to level the playing field," Shah said.  -- PTI

US President Donald Trump with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the former's China visit last year. Photograph: Damir Sagolj/Reuters
08:50   Larry Kudlow to be Trump's new economic adviser: WH
Larry Kudlow, a conservative media analyst, has accepted the position of chief economic adviser to President Donald Trump, the White House said today.

Kudlow, 70, would replace Gary Cohen, a former Goldman Sachs executive who quit the post after his differences with Trump on imposing a 25 per cent tariff on import of steel and 10 per cent on aluminium.

"Larry Kudlow was offered, and accepted, the position of Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.

"We will work to have an orderly transition and will keep everyone posted on the timing of him officially assuming the role," Sanders said.

Kudlow served in the Regan administration when he helped craft the economic policy.  -- PTI
08:38   Air India Twitter page hacked by 'Turkish hackers'
The official Twitter account of national carrier Air India was hacked by suspected Turkish hackers on Thursday.

The verified account, which has 1,47,000 followers, appeared to be in possession of the hackers.

The cover photo of the verified account showed the image of Turkish Airline and the tweets displaying in the account are also in Turkish language.

Pro-Turkish tweets are being shared on the account and the verified blue tick was also removed for sometime.

One of the re-tweets claimed that the Air India account has been hacked by the Turkish cyber army Ayyildiz Tim.

The tweet reads, 'Your account has been hacked by the Turkish cyber army Ayyildiz Tim.Your DM correspondence and important data have been captured.'

The profile of the page reads, 'Ayyildiz Tim Ozel Operasyon Ekibi.'

Micro-blogging site Twitter usually removes the verification mark from any such account for a brief time when a verified user's handle is changed.

In such incidents, as part of its policy, Twitter requires the user to provide their documents again to ensure that the account is still in the right hands.

However, the account now seems to be recovered with all controversial tweets by alleged hackers deleted. The blue tick has also been recovered.  -- With ANI inputs
08:24   US says Russia responsible for spy poisoning in UK
The White House today threw it weight behind the United Kingdom in the case of a nerve agent attack on a former spy and his daughter, saying it shares the British assessment that Russia is responsible for the attack.

It also said that the UK's decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the alleged attack was a 'just response'.

"The US stands in solidarity with its closest ally, the UK. The US shares the UK's assessment that Russia is responsible for the reckless nerve agent attack on a British citizen and his daughter, and we support the UK's decision to expel Russian diplomats as a just response," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday expelled 23 Russian diplomats -- in the 'single biggest expulsion' in more than 30 years -- and suspended high-level bilateral contacts, saying Moscow was 'culpable' of the nerve agent attack.

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found collapsed after being poisoned last week.

Both remain in a serious condition along with a police officer who came in contact with the same substance.

Russia denies its involvement in the attempted murder. Sanders said the attack fits into a pattern of behaviour in which Russia 'disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes'.

"The US is working together with our allies and partners to ensure that this kind of abhorrent attack does not happen again," she said.  -- PTI

IMAGE: A police officer stands at a cordon around the bench where former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found after they were poisoned, in Salisbury, on Wednesday. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters
00:15   US challenges India's export subsidy program at WTO
The US today challenged Indian export subsidies schemes at the World Trade Organisation, saying these programmes harm American workers by creating an "uneven" playing field, officials said.

The US Trade Representative argued that at least half a dozen Indian programmes provide financial benefits to Indian exporters, which allow them to sell their goods more cheaply to the detriment of American workers and manufacturers.
These programs are: the Merchandise Exports from India Scheme; Export Oriented Units Scheme and sector specific schemes, including Electronics Hardware Technology Parks Scheme, Special Economic Zones, Export Promotion Capital Goods Scheme and Duty Free Imports for Exporters Programme.

"These export subsidy programmes harm American workers by creating an uneven playing field on which they must compete," said Lighthizer.

"USTR will continue to hold our trading partners accountable by vigorously enforcing US rights under our trade agreements and by promoting fair and reciprocal trade through all available tools, including the WTO," Lighthizer said.

The announcement from Lighthizer came while Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale was on his maiden visit to the US. He was scheduled to hold meetings with the USTR.

In a statement, the USTR alleged that through these programmes, India is given exemption from certain duties, taxes, and fees which benefits numerous Indian exporters, including producers of steel products, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, information technology products, textiles, and apparel.

According to the Indian government documents, thousands of Indian companies are receiving benefits totaling to over $7 billion annually from these programs.

-- PTI