Thu, 01 November 2018
Bill or ordinance on Ayodhya issue will be unconstitutional: Chidambaram

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23:33   Bill or ordinance on Ayodhya issue will be unconstitutional: Chidambaram
Amid a clamour within the BJP for bringing a legislation for early construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Thursday said any ordinance by the government or a bill passed in Parliament will be unconstitutional when the matter is sub-judice.
Bringing an ordinance or law pending an appeal in the Supreme Court will be an "adventurist action", he said.
"In my view, to bring an ordinance would be unconstitutional. So let us see whether the government recognises the constitutional position or it will indulge in an adventurist action. An ordinance when the appeal is pending will be an adventurist action. It will be unconstitutional," he told reporters at the AICC briefing.
He said the demand for an ordinance was a trial balloon and the government is letting its followers "test the water". 
"They are floating all these balloons to see what the public reaction is, but the matter is pending before the Supreme Court as a regular appeal against the Allahabad High Court judgment," he said.
"In my view an ordinance would be unconstitutional. A Bill would also be unconstitutional. You cannot pass a Bill setting aside the judgment of a High Court when the matter is pending in the Supreme Court. That is my understanding of law. I may be right, I may be wrong," he said.
Amid a growing chorus from saffron outfits for an ordinance on construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya, BJP MP Rakesh Sinha on Thursday said he will bring a private member's bill in this regard and asked opposition leaders including Congress chief Rahul Gandhi whether they will support it. -- PTI
23:17   5 killed by suspected ULFA-I terrorists In Assam's Tinsukia
Three members of a family were among five persons shot dead by suspected ULFA-Independent while two others were injured at Kheroni in Assam's Tinsukia district Thursday night, police said.
A group of assailants with sophisticated weapons came to Kheronibari village near Dhola-Sadiya bridge and called out five-six persons from their house around 8 pm, they said.
They then opened indiscriminate fire upon those people before fleeing under the cover of darkness, a police officer said.
Police suspect the gunmen belonged to the ULFA-Independent faction as they were in battle fatigue.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal condemned "the killing of innocent people" and conveyed his sympathy to the bereaved families.
"Strong action will be taken against the perpetrators of this dastardly violence. We will not tolerate such cowardly act," he told PTI.
Sonowal said he has directed state ministers Keshav Mahanta and Tapan Gogoi along with DGP Kuladhar Saikia to rush to the spot.
"We will not spare the culprits of the killings and will be brought to book," he said.
The chief minister appealed to the people of Assam to maintain peace and harmony.
He also directed all deputy commissioners and SPs to remain alert. -- PTI
22:26   BJP leader, brother shot dead in J-K's Kishtwar
A senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader of Jammu and Kashmir and his brother were shot dead by suspected militants in Kishtwar district Thursday night, officials said.
State secretary of BJP Anil Parihar and his brother Ajeet were returning from their shop in Kishtwar when they were fired upon from close range at a dark, narrow lane leading to their house, the officials said.
The assailants were apparently waiting for the brothers to return home and used pistols to target them, they said.
They were rushed to a hospital where doctors declared them brought dead, they said.
Divisional Commissioner (Jammu) Sanjeev Verma said that police are investigating the matter.
BJP state general secretary Ashok Kaul condemned the attack. This is the first attack on any political leader in the Jammu region in past several years. -- PTI 
22:03   'No, never': Akhilesh plays down prime ministerial ambitions
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Thursday said he has no prime ministerial ambitions and would rather work for upliftment of his state Uttar Pradesh.
The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister was speaking at a panel discussion in New Delhi, which included BJP leader Ram Madhav, National Conference's Omar Abdullah, Sachin Pilot of the Congress and Jayant Choudhary of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, at the release of a book of journalist-author Priya Sahgal.
As the discussion turned towards 'Mahagathbandhan' or the grand alliance that opposition parties are trying to forge to take on the ruling BJP at the Centre ahead of the Lok Sabha polls next year, moderator Vir Sanghvi asked how such an alliance will work when all opposition leaders have prime ministerial ambitions.
To this, Yadav replied he does not have any such aspirations.
Answering a pointed 'no?' from Sanghvi, Yadav replied, "No". When the moderator asked 'never?", the Samajwadi leader said, "Never".
Yadav said he would rather work to improve conditions of his state and cited examples of the development work done during his tenure as the Uttar Pradesh chief minister. 
Yadav, who was UP's chief minister from 2012 to 2017, talked about the work done for the Gomti river as also on the Agra Expressway, saying aircraft like Sukhoi, Mirage and Hercules landed on that expressway, which was proof of the good work that was done there.
"Now, you can land your Rafale also," Yadav said tongue-in-cheek looking at the BJP's Madhav.
Yadav's statement that he had no prime ministerial ambitions was also seen as being directed towards Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati, apparently as a bid to placate her ambition of the prime ministerial role.
Congress leader Pilot said one should not start his life with an ambition to become the prime minister as several events play a role in shaping a political career and nothing was anyway permanent in politics.
While Yadav had talked about not being interested in prime ministerial role in February last year also, his statement now assumes significance in the wake of intensified efforts by various opposition parties to forge an anti-BJP alliance to give a strong fight to the ruling party. -- PTI
21:52   In talks with US on Trump's visit to India: MEA
India on Thursday said it was engaged with the US to decide when President Donald Trump can visit the country, days after he declined an invite to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations citing scheduling issues. 
Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry Raveesh Kumar said high-level exchanges are integral part of the strategic partnership between the two countries, and both sides are engaged in discussions on when Trump can visit India.
"Both India and the US are in talks to decide when President Trump can come to India," Kumar said at a media briefing.
He was asked about the US President turning down India's invite to grace next year's Republic Day celebrations as chief guest. The White House has said Trump's inability to participate was a "purely scheduling issue".
Earlier this week, a White House spokesperson, when asked about Trump's decision, had said, "President Trump was honoured by Prime Minister Modi's invitation to him to be the chief guest of India's Republic Day on January 26, 2019, but is unable to participate due to scheduling constraints."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited Trump to visit India during their talks in Washington in June 2017.
Every year, India invites world leaders to attend its Republic Day celebrations.
In 2015, the then US president Barack Obama had attended it as the chief guest, which was his second visit to India as the American president. -- PTI 
21:22   Rajinikanth's 2.0 cast member accused of sexual harassment
As the #Metoo movement gathers pace, a Chennai-based woman artiste has accused actress Maya S Krishnan, who is part of top actor Rajinikanth's upcoming movie 2.0, of sexually harassing her.
Krishnan has refuted the allegations.
This is the second such instance in which a woman has been named, and first from Tamil Nadu with the campaign surging ahead.
Chennai-based theatre artiste Ananya Ramaprasad in a Facebook post said, "I am a victim of sexual, mental and emotional manipulation, abuse, and most horrifically, gaslighting, all at the hands of my abuser, Maya S Krishnan."
On her Facebook page, Krishnan, however, refuted the allegations and said she was trying to help and ready to face legal proceedings.
"I deny all the allegations mentioned in the post.... Considering her to be a child was a mistake, I will not repeat that anymore," said Krishnan, who is part of actor Vikram's upcoming film 'Dhruva Natchathiram.'
Last month, popular comedienne Kaneez Surka accused fellow comic Aditi Mittal of "forcibly kissing" her on the mouth two years ago at a comedy show.
Mittal has issued an unconditional apology.
Popular singer Chinmayi Sripaada recently levelled allegations of sexual harassment against lyricist Vairamuthu, who has refuted it.
The Indian version of the movement in entertainment, media and film industry started after actress Tanushree Dutta levelled sexual harassment charges against veteran actor Nana Patekar. -- PTI 
21:13   Mid-air collision averted in Indo-Bangladesh airspace border
Two IndiGo planes came too close for comfort before averting a mid-air collision at the border airspace of India and Bangladesh, Airports Authority of India officials said Thursday.
With only 45 seconds before the possible collision, it was averted after the Air Traffic Control tower in Kolkata instructed one plane to turn right and move away from the other aircraft that had come at the same level on Wednesday.
"Both the aircraft, belonging to low cost carrier IndiGo, had come on the same level on Wednesday evening and posed a threat to both the aeroplanes," a senior AAI official at the Kolkata airport told PTI over phone.
"One aircraft was going to Guwahati from Chennai and the other from Guwahati to Kolkata. The planes had come close to each other around 5.10 pm," he said.
At that time, the Kolkata-bound flight was at 36,000 ft in Bangladesh airspace and the other one at 35,000 ft in Indian airspace.
The Bangladesh ATC had asked the Kolkata-bound flight to descend to 35,000 ft and when the aircraft followed the order, it came close to the aircraft which was at 35,000 ft, the official said.
An ATC official in Kolkata saw it and immediately ordered the Chennai-Guwahati flight to make a right turn and move away from the path of the descending aircraft, averting a disaster, he said.
"We have no such information as of now," an IndiGo spokesperson told PTI when contacted.
As per standard procedure, an investigation will be initiated, another AAI official said.
It is not known if the Airborne Collision Avoidance System or the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System, which are generally fitted in aircraft, had alerted the pilots or not, the official said, adding that everything will be found out during the investigation.
As per rule, the standard separation gap between two aircraft, both vertical difference and lateral difference, should be a minimum of 1000 ft, said sources at the airport. -- PTI  
20:31   BJP remembers Ram only when elections are near: Congress
Congress leader Rajeev Shukla Thursday hit out at the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre, saying the BJP only remembers Ram temple issue when elections are near.
Shukla, the party's national spokesperson, at a press conference also attacked the government on the issue of Rafale fighter jet deal. He said the Centre was hiding information on the deal from the Supreme Court and Parliament.
"What kind of a corruption-free India they have given where the Supreme Court has to ask for the Rafale aircraft deal details. The government is hiding information from Parliament and the Supreme Court," Shukla said.
Replying to a question on Ram temple issue, Shukla said the "BJP recalls Lord Ram only when elections are near".
"They have nothing to do with Lord Ram. The BJP does not have faith on him but garnering votes in his name during elections," he said.
He, however, clarified the Congress's stand on the issue, saying the party will obey the order of the Supreme Court in the matter.
Attacking the Vasundhara Raje-led government in Rajasthan, the Congress leader said it has pushed the state into BIMARU category, an acronym for states with poor socio-economic parameter.
People in the BJP have mastered the art of making false promises, he added. 
Shukla said every section of the society in the state was suffering due to deteriorating health, education, and water facilities.
"Ache din did not arrive for any section of society in the BJP rule and there is no reason for people to vote them again," he said. 
On chief ministerial candidate in the poll-bound state, Shukla said Congress legislators will decided on it when the party is voted to power. PTI  
20:20   Explore if Bhagat Singh can be declared martyr: CIC to MHA
The Central Information Commission has recommended to the home ministry that it should explore whether the status of martyr can be accorded to Bhagat Singh.
It has also said that in case it cannot be done, the government must give a detailed explanation for that.
Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said government facilitates freedom fighters and gives pension but revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh are not even give the status of a martyr leave aside any financial support to their families.
The matter pertained to an RTI applicant who had sought to know from the government whether it gave him the status of Shaheed and if not, what must have been the legal limitations.
Bhagat Singh and his revolutionary comrades Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged by the British on March 23, 1931 in the Lahore Conspiracy case.
The applicant sought information from the Rashtrapati Bhavan which forwarded his request to the Home Ministry which in turn sent it to National Archives for response.
Not getting any satisfactory response, the applicant approached the Commission seeking directions for disclosure of information.
"A demand to declare Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev as martyrs is made every year during their birth and death anniversaries. Punjab government had declared Sarabjit Singh as a 'national martyr', who died in Kot Lakhpat jail, but Bhagat Singh and others were ignored," Acharyulu pointed out.
He said newspapers had reported on May 20 that the Punjab and Haryana High Court held that status of martyr could not be conferred on these three martyrs because there was no statutory basis.
Acharyulu also pointed out that the Punjab government claimed that no official recognition could be given to anybody as a "martyr" as Article 18 of the Constitution does not permit conferring of any title by the state.
He underlined that top level political personalities are generally given Bharat Ratna, martyrs of war and heroic personalities in army get Vir Chakra awards, meritorious persons from different civilian services get recognised with Padma awards.
At a different level, the nation expressed gratitude to the freedom fighters and their families by bronze plate and pension, he said. -- PTI
20:14   Owaisi questions Naidu's credentials in forming united front against BJP
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen president Asaduddin Owaisi on Thursday questioned the credentials of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu in taking the initiative for an opposition alliance to take on the National Democratic Alliance, saying he was a supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party till recently and during the 2002 "Gujarat pogrom".
Naidu's Telugu Desam Party was part of the Narendra Modi government when the deaths of research scholar Rohith Vemula, Mohammed Akhlaq (lynching victim) and others happened, he said.
"@ncbn supported BJP when Gujrat Pogrom happened in 2002, was part of @PMOIndia cabinet while Akhlaq, pahlu khan, Rohit,JUNAID, Aleemuddin where murdered,during his tenure as CM erstwhile AP many communal riots happened, AZIZ & AZAM killed in encounter NOW Saviour of Secularism WAH," Owaisi tweeted.
Naidu, who quit the NDA in March this year over the Centre's refusal to grant special status to Andhra Pradesh, has been in talks with leaders of non-BJP parties to put up a united fight against the saffron party.
On Thursday, he met Congress President Rahul Gandhi and NCP chief Sharad Pawar in Delhi.
Pawar said Naidu would take the initiative and talk to other non-BJP parties, including the Congress, on formulating a common minimum programme to take on the Modi government.
Gandhi said opposition parties will work together to defeat the BJP to defend India, its institutions and the democracy. -- PTI 
20:00   Govt sells 3.18% in Coal India, to get Rs 5,300 cr
The government on Thursday sold 3.18 per cent stake in Coal India, in the first big ticket disinvestment of current fiscal, which will fetch Rs 5,300 crore to the exchequer. 
Retail investors lapped up 6.19 crore shares or 1.56 times the shares reserved for them. As much as 3.96 crore shares were reserved for retail investors, who can individually bid for shares worth up to Rs 2 lakh.
Institutional buyers had on Wednesday bid for 15.84 crore shares or 1.06 times the equity earmarked for them.
Taking together the bids from institutional and retail investors in the two day offer for sale, the government has sold 3.18 per cent stake in Coal India which will fetch about Rs 5,300 crore to the exchequer.
The government had planned to sell over 18.62 crore shares or 3 per cent in Coal India Ltd at a floor price of Rs 266 apiece.
On top of the 3 per cent stake sale, the government also had an option to retain an over-subscription (green shoe option) of another 6 per cent stake in the CIL OFS.
The government has exercised green shoe option to the extent of 0.18 per cent in case of Coal India, an official said. 
Shares of Coal India closed at Rs 261.10, down 1.90 per cent over previous close.
The government held 78.32 per cent stake in Coal India at the end of September. -- PTI
19:58   HC stays notice to Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund to vacate Teen Murti Complex
The Delhi high court on Thursday stayed the eviction notice given to Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund to vacate the Teen Murti Estate Complex, from where it was operating.
The court sought response of the Centre on JNMF's plea seeking to set aside the estate officer's October 15 eviction notice.
Justice Anu Malhotra listed the matter for further hearing on November 16.
The JNMF has denied the claims that it was in illegal possession of the property.
Established in 1964, the Fund has been located at Teen Murti -- once the residence of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru -- since 1967.
Its offices are not part of the main building but occupy a set of barracks on its eastern side with a separate entry from Teen Murti Marg. -- PTI
19:42   Indian gold demand rises 10 pc in Sep qtr; festive outlook muted
Indian gold demand during the September quarter registered a 10 per cent rise to 183.2 tonne from a year earlier, as prices fell significantly resulting in bargain buying, the World Gold Council said in a report Thursday.
Going forward, however, the seasonal spike in gold demand could be moderate this Dhanteras-Diwali, owing to factors like a lack of liquidity and rising prices.
 According to WGC's 'Q3 Gold Demand Trends' report, in value terms, the country's September quarter gold demand went up by 14 per cent to Rs 50,090 crore, compared to Rs 43,800 crore.
"A dip in the gold price in the early part of the quarter to around Rs 29,000 per 10 grams (with taxes) its lowest level since January 2018 - spurred demand," WGC Managing Director, India, Somasundaram PR said.
 The rupee's depriciation however, impacted the local price which surged sharply to around Rs 32,000-33,000 per 10 grams (without taxes) and demand eased towards the later half of the quarter.
"A combination of factors such as lack of buying occasions, disruption caused due to floods in a key gold market (Kerala) and an intervening inauspicious period affected demand," he added.
The last quarter of the year (October-December) is normally a vibrant period for gold related purchases as demand rises amid festivals and wedding season.
However, the seasonal spike in demand could be moderate this year due to factors like a "lack of liquidity, rising Indian prices and impending elections in some key states impacting trade logistics," Somasundaram said. -- PTI
19:39   Stubble burning in Pb solely responsible for rising Delhi pollution: Kejriwal
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Thursday said stubble burning in Punjab was the sole reason behind the rising pollution levels in the national capital as he slammed the Centre for failing to provide straw management machinery to the farmers.  
Justifying his claim by showing a satellite picture of stubble burning in Punjab as well as Haryana, Kejriwal rejected the claims that Delhi's air quality had worsened due to its traffic or industries.
"This is a satellite image... You can see the red spots which indicates stubble burning in several parts of Punjab including Bathinda and Amritsar... There cannot be a more scientific (proof) than this," Kejriwal said while addressing the media here.  
"There is a small portion of Haryana (burning stubble) but its role is quite limited. Otherwise, it (stubble burning) is mostly happening in Punjab, Kejriwal said, adding that Delhi had neither witnessed a sudden rise in vehicles plying on the road nor new industries had opened up overnight.
Blaming the Centre for the mess, Kejriwal said Union minister Harshvardhan had assured him "a few months ago" that both Punjab and Haryana would get grants to buy machines for managing stubble.
"Harshvardhan had assured me that there was no need to worry as each village in Punjab and Haryana will be given grant to purchase four to five machines (for management of stubble)," Kejriwal said.
"Why did it not happen? He will have to answer it," he added. -- PTI
18:55   BJP will go from 280 to 2 LS seats if it says Ram temple was jumla: Uddhav
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray Thursday dared the Bharatiya Janata Party to claim that the promise of building a Ram temple in Ayodhya was a "jumla", asserting that it will go down from "280" Lok Sabha seats to two if it did so.

Further attacking the BJP, he said the bricks collected for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh were in reality not for the temple but steps that took it to power.
Thackeray was addressing Sena workers at Mahad in Raigad district.
The Sena and the BJP are allies in the governments in Maharashtra and at the Centre, but have constantly been at loggerheads over a host of issues.
"The bricks that were collected for Ram mandir were in reality not for the temple, but were the steps to take you (BJP) to power. Say once that (the construction of) Ram temple was a jumla and you will be reduced to two seats from 280 (in the Lok Sabha)," the Sena president said.
The ruling party currently has an effective strength of 272 members in the Lok Sabha.
The BJP has often been derided by other parties for its poll promises that brought it to power in 2014, which they claim were nothing more than election rhetoric or "jumla".
Thackeray said the fight had now begun in the run-up to next year's Lok Sabha polls, adding that the politics and the prevailing environment in the country were on a downslide.
"The 2019 polls are fast approaching. I am not concerned about what will happen (to political parties), but about what will happen to the people and the country," Thackeray said.
He rued that neither inflation had decreased nor employment increased after the BJP came to power with a majority in the 2014 polls, adding that people were grappling with a "strange" environment prevalent in the country.
Thackeray asked the party workers to go among the masses and ask them if they had received the benefits of the schemes of the Narendra Modi government.
In another veiled dig at the BJP, the Sena chief said he was not for garnering votes after making false promises.
He added that while he was touring the state to take stock of the drought situation, Prime Minister Modi was busy with his foreign tours. -- PTI
18:43   Now, Netaji's kin demand his statue at India Gate
The kin of Subhas Chandra Bose Thursday demanded a statue of the leader at India Gate in the national capital and declaration of his birthday on January 23 as "Liberation Day".
The demand comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a 182-metre-tall statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, considered to be the tallest in the world, in Gujarat.
The imposing monument -- the Statue of Unity -- is built near the Sardar Sarovar dam in Gujarat's Narmada district.
"NDA government under the leadership of @narendramodi ji kept its commitment by unveiling #SardarVallabhaiPatel's statue on 31Oct 2018 & celebrating the day as #UnityDay. Demand rising to unveil a statue of the #LiberatorofIndia-on 23 Jan'19 at #IndiaGate Delhi & declare the day as #LiberationDay (sic)," Netaji's grandnephew Chandra Kumar Bose said in a tweet.
When contacted, Chandra Kumar Bose, who is also a vice-president of the Bharatiya Janata Party's West Bengal unit, told PTI that the statue near India Gate was a demand of several Indian National Army and Army veterans.
The prime minister had, on October 21, hoisted the national flag at the Red Fort and unveiled a plaque to mark the 75th anniversary of the proclamation of the Azad Hind government by Subhas Chandra Bose.
This was the first time the prime minister hoisted the national flag at the ramparts of the historic Red Fort for the second time in a year. Traditionally, the prime minister unfurls the tricolour at the Red Fort on Independence Day.
Modi had also announced a national award in the name of Subhas Chandra Bose, to be given every year to those police personnel who do excellent work in rescue-and-relief operations during any kind of disaster. -- PTI 
18:08   Will move private member's bill on Ram temple, says BJP MP
BJP MP Rakesh Singh on Thursday said he will bring a private member's bill seeking construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya and asked whether opposition leaders including Congress chief Rahul Gandhi will support it.
In a series of tweets, Singh, a Rajya Sabha MP, asked if leaders such as Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati and Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu, who kept on asking the BJP and RSS about the construction of temple, will support his bill.
"Will Rahul Gandhi, Sitaram Yechury, Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati and Lalu Prasad Yadav support private member bill on Ayodhya? They frequently ask the date (of Ram temple construction) from RSS and BJP, now onus is on them to answer," he tweeted.
Singh said he is asking a clear-cut question as now is the time to separate truth from lies.
He said the Ram temple issue is not a priority for the Supreme Court and questioned how many days the apex court took to give verdict on Article 377, Jallikattu and Sabarimala.
"But Ram temple is a top priority of Hindu society," he said.
Singh's remarks came days after the apex court postponed the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case to first week of January next year when an appropriate bench will decide the schedule of hearing.
Following the court's order, the chorus for an ordinance on construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya had grown among saffron outfits including the VHP and the RSS.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh said that the government should acquire the land and hand it over for the construction of Ram temple.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad said that Hindus cannot wait eternally for a court judgement on the Ayodhya land dispute case and asked the government to bring in a law for building a Ram temple. -- PTI 
17:37   We had a very good meeting: Rahul
"We had a very good meeting, the gist was that we have to defend democracy and future of the country. So we are coming together to work, all opposition forces must unite," Rahul Gandhi after meeting AP CM N Chandrababu Naidu.
17:27   Sonia visits exhibition organised by Maneka Gandhi
United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi paid a surprise visit to an exhibition organised by her sister-in-law Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi. The exhibition was held at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, Janpath, a short walk from Sonia Gandhi's residence. Gandhi spent over an hour at the exhibition, whose theme was Women of India - Organic Festival. 

The UPA chief's visit has come in the midst of political speculation that Maneka Gandhi's tryst with the BJP may not be her destiny and that the minister is keeping her distance from PM Narendra Modi.

Her son, Pilibhit MP Varun Gandhi has already been sent to forage in the political wilderness saddled as he is with his surname. It also doesn't help that he is in apparently in constant touch with with Priyanka Gandhi. The fact that Varun Gandhi has had to clarify that he is still with the BJP shows which way the wind is blowing and rumours are rife that the in the 2019 general elections he will leave the BJP and join the Congress to strengthen the hands of his estranged cousin Rahul Gandhi.

Where does that leave their mothers? Indira Gandhi's daughters-in-law never shared bonhomie privately and have never spoken to each other in decades. If Varun does leave the BJP, it remains to be seen where that will leave Maneka Gandhi.  
16:26   United we stand: Chandrababu Naidu meets Rahul Gandhi
TDP supremo and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who is trying to unite the opposition parties to take on the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections next year, met Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Thursday.

The meeting comes amid seat-sharing talks between the two parties for the Assemby elections.

Earlier in the day, Naidu met NCP chief Sharad Pawar and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah in the nationa; capital. Naidu "coincidentally" also met senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad at the Indira Gandhi International Airport and briefly discussed about the need to bring all non-BJP political parties together.--  PTI
15:52   IB to get new chief
Aravinda Kumar is likely to be be appointed Director, Intelligence Bureau, from January 2019. A 1984 IPS officer Kumar is now special director in IB. This ends speculation that incumbent director Rajiv Jain was set to get an extension till the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The government is all set to issue orders this week, which is a protocol and a drill in the established convention of intelligence organisations, but Kumar will remain an understudy till the end of this year.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday had a detailed discussion with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and also with the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

Formal orders will be issued once the Prime Minister signs the master file. Thereafter, the Appointments Committee of the Union Cabinet will approve Kumar's appointment. The orders are expected to be issued this week.

A strict observance of seniority is maintained in a well-knit organisation and therefore there will not be any extensions given to the present incumbent.
15:37   India has no extra-territorial ambitions: Army chief
India has no extra-territorial ambitions, but its aim is to enure a conducive external and internal security environment for unhindered economic progress and socio-political development, Army chief General Bipin Rawat said Thursday, in New Delhi.

Contested sovereignty of maritime territories pose a major challenge in East Asia and the South China Sea and these disputed maritime boundaries are threatening international waters, Gen Rawat said, speaking at a seminar on 'Evolving Geo-Politics of the Indo-Pacific Region-Challenges and Prospects'.

In his keynote address, Gen Rawat said, "Our security policy flows from two basic cardinals. That is, we have no extra-territorial ambitions and we have no desire to transplant our ideologies on others. Our aim is to enure a conducive external and internal security environment for unhindered economic progress and socio-political development. Thus, stability in the Indo-Pacific region is essential."

He said within the Indo-Pacific, the Indian Ocean Region remains India's primary area of interest. India, he said, is committed to uphold and strengthen the rules-based order in Indo-Pacific. -- PTI
15:29   Christian woman acquitted in blasphemy case likely to be flown out of Pak
The Christian woman who was convicted of blasphemy and was acquitted by Pakistan's Supreme Court is likely to be flown out of the country as the landmark verdict sparked countrywide protests and death threats from hardline groups.

Aasia Bibi, a 47-year-old mother of four, was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours. She always maintained her innocence, but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement.

The apex court's judgement, which was pronounced Wednesday, triggered protests across Pakistan with protestors led by Islamic political party Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan and other groups blocking major highways and roads in different parts of the country.

Bibi's husband Ashiq Masih has reached Pakistan along with his family from the UK to shift her abroad, The News reported quoting sources. Masih was provided complete security by the law enforcement agencies, it said.

Officials also said Bibi might be flown out of Pakistan due to threat to her life. However, it was not clear where she will go as several countries, including Canada, have offered asylum to her.

The timing of her release was not been shared due to security reasons. She was kept in Sheikhupura jail near Lahore. Bibi's case has been deeply divisive in Pakistan where there is strong support for the controversial blasphemy laws.

The blasphemy laws were promulgated by former military dictator Ziaul Haq in 1980s. A person convicted under these laws is given death sentence.-- PTI

Pic: Asia Bibi daughters pose with her photograph in this 2010 image.
15:14   MJ Akbar can't help but edit in court
Akbar's eye catches typos in clerks's transcript (and hapless man has to deal with scurrilous and appurtenance). Read the report here.
And there's no letting up... Divya Spandana @divyaspandana When you're done huffing & puffing take a breath & hold a mirror to yourselves. My views are mine. I don't give two hoots about yours. I'm not going to clarify what I meant and what I didn't cos you don't deserve one.
15:03   FIR against Asthana shows cognisable offences: CBI to Delhi HC
The CBI on Thursday opposed in the Delhi High Court its Special Director Rakesh Asthana's plea seeking to quash an FIR against him in a bribery case, saying that allegations against the officers and others show cognisable offences.

The agency also said the investigation in the case was at nascent stage and it was "handicapped" in the probe as certain files and documents were under the Central Vigilance Commission scrutiny.

The files and documents have been sent to the CVC as the Supreme Court has directed the vigilance body to conduct enquiry against CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma. CBI filed the reply in response to the notice issued to it on the petition filed by Asthana against the lodging of case.

The petitions of Asthana, CBI DSP Devendra Kumar and middleman Manoj Prasad are scheduled to come up for hearing before a bench of Justice Najmi Waziri during the day.

In the reply, the CBI has said, "This court categorically held that when an FIR is challenged by way of a writ petition, more particularly, in Prevention of Corruption Cases, allegations in the FIR are to be seen whether they disclose the cognisable offence or not and the roving enquiry at this stage is impermissible."  -- PTI
14:08   BJP responds to 'bird dropping' jibe
The BJP @BJP4India responds to Congress social media chief Divya Spandana/'s jibe at PM Narendra Modi where she likened him to bird dropping as she posted this picture alongside of the PM at the Statue of Unity yesterday. Scroll down for the reference. 

@BJP4India tweets: "Ummm no, it is the values of the Congress that are dropping. Historical disdain for Sardar Patel + Pathological dislike for @narendramodi = Such language. Clearly, @RahulGandhi's politics of 'love'!"
14:07   BJP responds to 'bird dropping' jibe
The BJP @BJP4India responds to Congress social media chief Divya Spandana/'s jibe at PM Narendra Modi where she likened him to bird dropping as she posted this picture alongside of the PM at the Statue of Unity yesterday. Scroll down for the reference. 

@BJP4India tweets: "Ummm no, it is the values of the Congress that are dropping. Historical disdain for Sardar Patel + Pathological dislike for @narendramodi = Such language. Clearly, @RahulGandhi's politics of 'love'!"
13:53   Karnataka minister throws sports kits at athletes
Karnataka Revenue Minister RV Deshpande sparked a controversy after he threw sports kits from a stage at an event to honour sportspersons in Karwar's Haliyal on Wednesday.

At the event, Deshpande was seen standing on the stage and throwing the kits, packed in plastic covers, towards athletes who had earned laurels at the national, state and district levels. The act was captured on video, which was later circulated on social media.

The Congress leader was in his home constituency to inaugurate a new indoor stadium and to honour local sportspersons.

Earlier, state Public Works Department minister HD Revanna faced flak after he threw food material towards flood victims in Kodagu district. -- ANI
13:40   BJP MP likely to introduce pvt member's bill to build Ram temple
BJP MP and RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha suggested this morning that he would soon introduce a private member's bill in Parliament seeking the construction of a Ram temple on a disputed site in Ayodhya.

The Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi case is currently in the Supreme Court. The court recently said that it would decide in January when to begin hearing the case.

Sinha today tweeted, "To those who keep asking the BJP and the RSS about when Ram temple will be constructed, I have a straight question: Will you support my private member bill?"

Sinha also questioned why the Supreme Court was delaying hearing the matter and said that the issue of a Ram temple in Ayodhya is a "top priority for Hindu society.

"Will Rahul Gandhi, Sitaram Yechury, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mayawati support the bill, Sinha also asked. "They frequently ask the date to @RSSorg @BJP4India, now onus on them to answer."

He also asked how many days the SC took to give the verdict on Article 377,  the Jallikattu issue, and the Sabarimala temple ban.

"But Ayodhya is not in priority for decades and decades. It is a top priority of Hindu society," he asked.

National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah said the BJP thinks Lord Ram will help it win next year's general elections, but God "will not help them win the elections.""It is the people who will vote, neither Lord Ram nor Allah will vote," he told ANI.
12:47   Jaish chief confirms nephew's death
Masood Azhar, Jaish-e-Muhammad chief and Kandahar hijacking mastermind, has confirmed the killing of his nephew, Usman Ibrahim by the Indian security forces in an encounter in Jammu and Kashmir's Tral.

Azhar himself has confirmed this in an audio recording as he has asked the Kashmiris to stand against India and launch an offensive.

In the audio clip, Azhar said, "My beloved nephew Usman Ibrahim and a Kashmiri fighter, Shaukat Ahmed have sacrificed their lives. A large number of people gathered to pay tribute to Shaukat Ahmad and still Indians claim that Kashmir is an integral part of India? They should feel ashamed."

Jaish-e-Muhammad militant Usman Ibrahim is the second nephew of Azhar to be killed in Kashmir in a span of less than a year.

Azhar while praising the "sacrifice" of his nephew said, "18-year old Usman Ibrahim has sacrificed his life at this young age. Usman's visit to Kashmir is not illegal, but India's entry into Kashmir's territory is illegal."

He asked the Kashmiris to unite against India and launch a jihad. "Kashmiri youth, isn't Usman's sacrifice not enough to make you stand. Dying a life of a slave is against any Muslim. India has given you an option to live as a slave and die as an oppressed. You must handover both things to them and get ready to sacrifice themselves. How long will you stand alone. You must stand together and get India uprooted," he added.
-- PTI
12:41   Mission Gange removes 55 tons of waste: Bachendri Pal
Over 55 tons of garbage and waste were removed from the Ganga by a 40-member team during its month-long expedition in the river, said its leader Everester Bachendri Pal.

The team found the Ganga polluted all through its 'Mission Gange' expedition route of 1500 km from Hardwar to Patna, Pal told reporters here Wednesday.

"We have pulled out over 55 tons of garbage and waste from the river in course of our month-long expedition which began from Hardwar on October 5 last," said the country's first woman who reached the summit of Mount Everest in 1984. The team left Jamshedpur on October 01.

The garbage and waste pulled out of the river were disposed off by respective municipalities of the seven towns the team reached, she said. -- PTI
12:14   Lt Gen Thimmaya takes over as GoC Army Training Command, Shimla
Lieutenant General PC Thimmaya took over as the 21st General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Army Training Command in Shimla on Thursday, an Army official said.

After passing out from the Indian Military Academy with the sword of honour, he commissioned into the 5th battalion Mechanised Infantry Regiment (14 KUMAON) on June 13, 1981.

An alumnus of Sainik School Bhubaneswar and National Defence Academy Pune, Thimmaya commanded his battalion during operation Parakram and an Independent Mechanised Brigade in the deserts.

As a major general, he commanded a strike formation and subsequently, as a lieutenant general, he commanded a Corps in the western theatre. Prior to his assumption of command of ARTRAC, Lieutenant General Thimmaya was posted as the Commandant of Army War College, Mhow.
@divyaspandana Divya Spandana/Ramya, who handles the Congress party's social media & digital communications makes an observation, with this tweet: "Is that bird dropping?"

That's in fact, a picture of PM Narendra Modi at the foot of Sardar Patel's Statue of Unity during the inauguration yesterday.
12:07   'Naxals can sense the end is near'
"Maoists are enraged that the media is reporting the truth. They want to physically isolate the media and psychologically isolate the villagers who have found the confidence to speak to the press about the real situation. Like terrorism ended in Punjab, Naxalism will end in Chhattisgarh," AIIMS doctor-turned IPS officer and SP of Dantewada Dr Abhishek Pallava tells's Archana Masih.

Read the story here.

Image: Dantewada Superintendent of Police Dr Abhishek Pallava with villagers in the Kudur area of Naxal-affected Kondagaon, Chhattisgarh. Photograph: Kind courtesy Dr Abhishek Pallava
11:34   Now what? #MeToo victim on the way ahead
This is an incredible opportunity to build a better India Inc -- fair and inclusive, where leaders make ethical decisions and women employees thrive, writes Anjuli Pandit who had accused MD & CEO of Taj Hotels of sexual harassment. Do read
11:29   Ram Guha will not be joining A'bad varsity
Historian, author and Modi government critic, Ramachandra Guha @Ram_Guha tweets: "Due to circumstances beyond my control, I shall not be joining Ahmedabad University. I wish AU well; it has fine faculty and an outstanding Vice Chancellor. And may the spirit of Gandhi one day come alive once more in his native Gujarat."
11:10   Stone-pelting at TV crew in Kashmir's Budgam after encounter
In Kashmir, news agency ANI's OB (Outdoor Broadcasting) van was damaged as locals pelted stones on vehicles after two terrorists were gunned down by security forces in Zagoo Arizal area of Budgam.

In the early hours today, two militants were killed in an encounter with security forces in Budgam district.

"Security forces launched an operation based on credible inputs about the presence of militants in Zagoo locality of Khansahib area in the district," a police official said.

He said during the operation, the militants fired on the search party, which was retaliated by the security forces. "During the exchange of fire, two militants were neutralized. Their identities are being ascertained," the police official said. Arms and ammunition were recovered from the encounter site, he said.

This is the second time in a couple of days that the media has been targetted. Two policemen and a cameraperson of Doordarshan were killed and two others were injured in a Maoist attack on Tuesday in poll-bound Chhattisgarhs Dantewada district.

The maoists ambushed a squad of local police which was carrying out patrolling on motor cycles from Sameli camp towards Nilawaya. A three-member team of Doordarshan was travelling for election-related news coverage at the same time and was caught in the cross-fire.  Read the eyewitness account here.

-- PTI
10:45   Not a good morning in Delhi
Skip that morning walk if you are in Delhi or NCR. Severe pollution and smog makes visibility poor in the national capital even as emergency measures to check pollution come into force today in Delhi-NCR. State pollution control bodies have been directed to initiate criminal prosecution against violators, while the Delhi government said it was fully prepared to implement odd-even scheme to regulate private vehicles when needed.

A day after the air quality slipped into 'severe' category, there was a marginal dip in pollution level due to increased wind speed but the air quality still remained 'very poor'.
10:42   Jagan Reddy petitions HC for independent probe in knife attack
YSR Congress Party President YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has filed a writ petition in the Hyderabad High Court seeking a direction to the Andhra Pradesh government to hand over the investigation in the attack on him at Visakhapatnam airport to an independent agency which is not under the control of the state government.

On October 25, Reddy suffered a minor injury when a man slashed at him with a small knife at Visakhapatnam airport. The man, Janapalli Srinivas Rao, works as a waiter at a restaurant at the airport.

The writ petition stated that there has been a conspiracy angle beyond doubt going by the sequence of events and the manner in which the state police and Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu have been trying to dilute the incident by doling out incoherent and uncorroborated details to the press even before the investigation began.

When Jagan Reddy was knifed.
Comedian Atul Khatri: The #StatueOfUnity is so tall that on a clear day from the top you can clearly see the impending drought in Maharashtra..
Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia @Ptr6Vb: "Lt Gen Satish Dua hangs his boots after four decades service to nation & army riding home on his bike after handing over, no staff no staff car. Salute you soldier for your many contributions to nations security, well regarded & respected military leader &soldier a great role model."
10:20   Sensex, Nifty turn choppy; erase early gains on profit-booking
The BSE Sensex rose over 100 points Thursday, but turned choppy after investors began booking profits at higher levels. The benchmark indices opened higher led by banking and auto stocks amid sustained buying by domestic institutional investors, better-than-expected corporate earnings and positive global cues buoyed sentiment.

The 30-share Sensex rallied 149.36 points, or 0.44 per cent, to trade at 34,591.41 points. The gauge had climbed 550.92 points Wednesday. Sectoral indices led by capital goods, realty, infrastructure and auto were trading in the positive zone, with gains up to 4.29 per cent.

The broader NSE Nifty too surged 55 points, or 0.49 per cent, to 10,441.60 in opening session.

In the Sensex kitty, L&T took the top position by surging 5.73 per cent on the back of better-than-expected quarterly earnings posted by the company Wednesday.

Easing concerns around the rift between the government and RBI, after the Finance Ministry said the autonomy for the central bank, within the framework of the RBI Act, was an "essential and accepted" governance requirement, lifted the market in early trade, traders said. Other gainers that supported the key indices included Yes Bank, Tata Motors, ONGC, M&M, Axis Bank, Adani Ports, Tata Steel, Maruti Suzuki, HDFC Bank, PowerGrid, ITC Ltd, and Bajaj Auto, rising by up to 1.86 per cent. -- PTI
09:53   Manohar Parrikar fully fit, says Goa minister
Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday evening held a cabinet meeting at his residence in Taleigao near Panaji. Present at the meeting were PWD minister Sudin Dhavlikar, town and country planning minister Vijai Sardesai and panchayat minister Mauvin Godinho.

While talking to media, Dhavlikar said issues related to state IT policy and PWD engineers' remuneration, among others, were discussed in the meeting.

After attending the cabinet meeting, Godinho said that the Chief Minister participated in the discussion and even gave his "valuable suggestions".

"Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar needs a little rest. He is meeting party people tomorrow, agenda has been cleared. Normal functioning would not be impacted," Godinho said.

"The Chief Minister is fully fit. He participated in the discussion, gave his valuable suggestions. Except for the fact that the meeting didn't take place at the Secretariat, everything else was like a normal cabinet meeting," he added.

Earlier on Tuesday, Parrikar had chaired a meeting of the state investment promotion board at his residence.The Goa Chief Minister was discharged from Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on October 14 after undergoing treatment for a pancreatic ailment.

On Saturday, state Health Minister Vishwajit Rane admitted Parrikar was suffering from pancreatic cancer.

The admission came amid relentless demands from the opposition parties to know whether the Chief Minister was fit enough to govern. The state government had hitherto been dodging persistent queries on Parrikar's illness.
09:23   Enough supply of petroleum for countries to cut oil import from Iran: Trump
President Donald Trump said on Wednesday in a presidential memorandum that he had determined there was sufficient supply of petroleum and petroleum products for countries to 'significantly' reduce their purchase of crude oil from Iran, which is going face US sanctions from November 5.

In May, Trump had pulled out of the 2015 landmark nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) terming it as 'disastrous'. Under the Obama-era deal, involving five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, Iran had agreed to stop its nuclear programme in exchange of relief from economic sanctions.

Moments after coming out the deal Trump had signed fresh set of sanctions against Iran and warned countries against any cooperation with Tehran on its controversial nuclear weapons programme.

In his presidential determination, Trump said 'there is a sufficient supply of petroleum and petroleum products from countries other than Iran to permit a significant reduction in the volume of petroleum and petroleum products purchased from Iran by or through foreign financial institutions."

Trump's presidential determination, not an executive order but a kind of directive issued by the White House to the members of his adminstration on some policy matters, comes less than 100 hours before the deadline set by him for countries like India to bring its purchase of oil to zero from Iran by November 4.

India has expressed its difficulties in doing so given the galloping energy needs of its 1.3 billion people. More than 80 per cent of India's energy needs are imported.

But at the same time, India has taken steps to reduce its oil purchase from Iran, which has already declined substantially.   -- PTI
09:15   Two terrorists killed in Budgam encounter
Two terrorists have been killed in an encounter that broke out in Zagoo Arizal area of Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday.

Two-three terrorists were reportedly trapped in the area.

More details about the operation are awaited.

This comes after bodies of two terrorists were recovered in Pulwama's Tral town following an exchange of fire between terrorists and security forces.

The police had also recovered arms and ammunition, including M4 and AK 47 rifles and other incriminating materials from the site of the encounter.  -- ANI
09:05   Petrol prices slashed, diesel unchanged
Petrol prices continued to tumble on Thursday as the essential commodity is now being sold at Rs 79.37 per litre in the national capital.

While diesel prices remained unchanged, petrol witnessed a decrease of 18 paise in Delhi as compared to Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Mumbai, petrol prices witnessed a marginal decline of 16 paise to now be sold at Rs 84.86 per litre.

Diesel prices remained unchanged in the financial capital.

The fuel prices had earlier witnessed a relentless hike in the country, burning a hole in the common commuter's pocket.

In this regard, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had on October 4 announced a reduction of Rs 2.50 per litre on both petrol and diesel prices after curbing excise duty on the commodity by Rs 1.50 per litre and urged respective state governments to slash the same amount at their end. -- ANI
08:32   Naidu to meet Rahul, Pawar today to discuss alliance against NDA
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu will meet Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar in the national capital on Thursday.

The Telugu Desam Party president has been meeting leaders of opposition parties in view of the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

On October 27, Naidu had met with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and veteran leader Sharad Yadav.

Earlier, he had also met with former Bharatiya Janata Party leader Yashwant Sinha, National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati.

The Andhra Pradesh chief minister has been extremely vocal and straight-forward about his critical opinions against the Centre.

He had earlier said that the country needs a national-level alliance to counter Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in upcoming elections.  -- ANI
00:08   Don't 'forgive' Modi in 2019 LS polls: Yashwant Sinha to farmers
Former Union minister Yashwant Sinha on Wednesday said people should not "forgive" Prime Minister Narendra Modi and "uproot" his government in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
He was addressing a farmers' gathering at Vanthali in Gujarat's Junagadh district, around 300 km from Ahmedabad.
"This government has failed on all fronts. Everyone is suffering, be it farmers, youth, women or Dalits. Only new slogans are being given. The only solution is to uproot this government in the next (Lok Sabha) polls," Sinha said.
"I want to apologise because I was also part of the BJP when promises were made ahead of 2014 (general) elections. But I do not want you to forgive him (Modi) in the next polls," he said.
The former finance minister has been a vocal critic of the current Bharatiya Janata Party-led government and resigned from the party in April this year.
Sinha was invited by Patidar leader Hardik Patel to address the farmers.
Commenting on the unveiling of a 182-metre statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Narmada district earlier on Wednesday, Sinha said Modi should have announced a pro-farmer scheme on the occasion.
"He did not announce any scheme for farmers because he has forgotten them," he said.
Disgruntled BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha was also present at the gathering.
The actor-turned-politician said he will not complain if the BJP sacked him.
"I did not come into politics for any personal gain. I will not complain if my party sacks me tomorrow. I love the people of this country more than my party," he said. -- PTI