Thu, 18 April 2019
EC verifying MCC violation plaint against Naidu

Timeline  Refresh

23:14   EC verifying MCC violation plaint against Naidu
The Election Commission is verifying a complaint by the opposition Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress against Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on alleged violation of the model code of conduct.

"We are verifying all facts related to the issue. The MCC is very clear and it will remain in force till May 27 when the entire election process gets over.

"If there is any violation, we will take appropriate action, including against officials concerned," state Chief Electoral Officer Gopal Krishna Dwivedi told reporters in Amaravati, a day after the YSR Congress lodged a complaint against Naidu on alleged violation of the model code of conduct (MCC).

According to official sources, the Chief Minister cancelled a scheduled review meeting on law and order situation Thursday afternoon.

He conducted a review meeting with officials of AP Capital Region Development Authority in the forenoon at the Secretariat, the sources said.

Provision 19.5 of the Model Code of Conduct for Elections strictly bars officials from attending any meeting called by the ministers (including Chief Minister) or political functionaries.

Even security-related briefings 'when considered essential' should be undertaken by the Chief Secretary or the home secretary.

"The rule book is very clear and it has to be scrupulously followed by everyone. Any violation will sure lead to necessary (disciplinary) action," a senior EC official said.

On Wednesday, the chief minister held a review meeting on the progress of Polavaram project, followed by one on drinking water supply in the state.

Principal Secretary (RWS) Jawahar Reddy and other senior officials attended the meetings.

On Thursday, CRDA Commissioner Cherukuri Sridhar and other officials attended the review meeting at the secretariat, according to official sources.  -- PTI
22:02   Farmer disallows landing of Hardik's helicopter
Congress leader Hardik Patel had to cancel his helicopter ride to Lunawada in Mahisagar district of Gujarat on Thursday at the last moment after the farmer on whose field the chopper was to land did not give his nod for its use as a helipad, an official said.

Hardik Patel had to later travel by road to Lunawada, around 100km from Ahmedabad, to address an election rally.

The 25-year-old, who led the Patidar reservation stir in Gujarat since 2015 and joined the Congress last month, has emerged as a star campaigner for the opposition party, criss-crossing the state in a helicopter to address poll rallies.

His helicopter ride to Lunawada to address an election rally for Congress's Panchmahal Lok Sabha candidate Vechatbhai Khant got into trouble after a farmer, Vinay Patel, went back on his permission to allow the chopper to land on his private field, the official said.

Vinay Patel sounded upset with Hardik Patel, saying he is 'playing politics on the bodies of those who died' during the Patidar reservation agitation.

"Hardik was to attend an election rally at 5 pm on Thursday at Lunawada and two days ago permission was granted for his helicopter to land at a private land.

"But the owner of the private land on which the temporary helipad was to be constructed for the chopper to land declined (permission) at the last moment," said resident additional collector R R Thakkar.

Since the permission to land his helicopter was cancelled, Hardik Patel travelled to the town by road to address the rally, Thakkar said.

Vinay Patel claimed permission for the helicopter's landing was sought from district authorities here by a local Congress leader without his knowledge.

"On April 16, local Congress leader Suresh Patel had sought permission (from authorities) for a helipad without my knowledge. When I learnt that he was given permission, I raised objection after which action was taken," he said.

"I know Hardik, the Patidar leader from our community, and I know who he is. I object to him putting foot on my land because he is doing politics on the dead bodies of 14 Patidar youths (killed during the quota agitation)," he said.  -- PTI
21:24   DMK member hacked to death in Madurai
A Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam member was hacked to death allegedly by supporters of an All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam functionary in full public view in Madurai on Thursday, police said.

M S Pandian, in his late 30s, was attacked by the group with sickles on the busy Keezhavali road in the morning.

He was rushed to a hospital where he died without responding to treatment, they said. He was nephew of former DMK zonal chairman V K Gurusamy and the attack by supporters of local AIADMK leader Rajapandian was due to previous enmity, police said adding it was not related to election.  -- PTI
20:22   India suspends cross-LoC trade with Pakistan
India has suspended the trade across the Line of Control with Pakistan from on Friday after probe agencies found the route was being 'misused' by elements from the neighbouring country to smuggle illegal weapons, drugs and fake currency, a government order said on Thursday.

It said a stricter regulatory and enforcement mechanism is being worked and the issue of the reopening the trade routes will be revisited once they are implemented.

The Union Home Ministry order stated that it has been 'decided by the government of India to suspend the LoC trade at Salamabad and Chakkan-da-Bagh in Jammu and Kashmir'.

It said the action was taken on the basis of reports that the trade routes were being 'misused by the Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency, among others'.

The LoC trade, at present, is conducted through two trade facilitation centres located at Salamabad in Uri of Baramulla district, and Chakkan-da-Bagh in Poonch district.

This trade takes place four days a week and is based on barter system and zero-duty.

The measure has been taken in the backdrop of the Pulwama terror attack following which India stepped up its military and strategic offensive against Pakistan and also withdrew the most favoured nation (MFN) from its neighbour.

"Meanwhile, a stricter regulatory and enforcement mechanism is being worked out and will be put in place in consultation with various agencies. The issue of reopening of LoC trade will be revisited thereafter," the government said in the statement.   -- PTI
19:58   Plea with EC to debar Sadhvi from contesting
Political activist Tehseen Poonawalla on Thursday urged the Election Commission to debar Bharatiya Janata Party's Bhopal candidate Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur from contesting the Lok Sabha polls as she was facing terror charges.

In a letter to the poll body, Poonawalla said the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had found Thakur to be the 'principal conspirator' in the 2008 Malegaon blast in which six people were killed.

Her name has also cropped up in the Ajmer Dargah blast case, he said.

"I would humbly request the Election Commission of India to take further necessary steps to uphold the Model Code of Conduct 2019 and take appropriate action against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and debar her from contesting elections," the letter read.

He said in his letter that 'a candidate accused with terror links must not be permitted to contest elections'.

Thakur has spent nine years in jail and is out on bail since 2017 on health grounds and she is currently facing charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the activist said.

She also stands accused of 'murder, attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy, and of promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion', Poonawalla, who is known for his proximity with the Congress, said.

However, as per the law, any citizen above 25 years of age is eligible to contest polls unless convicted for any crime that entails punishment for two years or more.

The BJP on Wednesday fielded Thakur from stronghold Bhopal to take on former Madhya Pradesh chief minister and senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh.  -- PTI
19:51   Malegaon victim's father seeks ban on Sadhvi
The father of one of the victims of the 2008 Malegaon blast moved the special National Investigation Agency court in Mumbai on Thursday, urging it to bar prime accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur from contesting the Lok Sabha election.

The application was filed by Nisar Sayeed, who lost his son in the blast, a day after the Bharatiya Janata Party fielded Thakur from the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat against Congress veteran Digvijay Singh.

Special NIA cases judge V S Padalkar sought replies from both the NIA and Thakur and posted the matter for Monday.

The applicant sought that Thakur, who is out on bail, be asked to attend court proceedings in Mumbai and be barred from contesting the election as the trial is in progress.

It further mentioned that Thakur got bail on health grounds. If she was 'healthy enough to fight elections in the crippling summers heat', then she has misled the court, the complainant alleged.

A petition seeking cancellation of her bail was pending before the Supreme Court, it said.

Six people were killed and over hundred injured in a bomb blast at Malegaon, a communally-sensitive textile town in north Maharashtra, on September 29, 2008.

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad arrested Thakur and others in the case, alleging that they were part of a Hindu extremist group which carried out the blast.

The NIA later gave Thakur a clean chit, but the court did not discharge Thakur. It dropped charges against her under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, but she is still facing trial under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Indian Penal Code sections.  -- PTI
19:04   N Korea 'tests new weapon'; wants Pompeo out of talks
North Korea on Wednesday test-fired a new tactical guided weapon under the supervision of its leader Kim Jong Un, according to reports in state news agency.

Quoting the Korean Central News Agency, Yonhap reported that the North Korean leader called the test an 'event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People's Army'.

'After watching the power of the new-type tactical guided weapon, he pointed out that our national defence scientists and workers in the field of the munitions industry performed another great work in increasing the country's defence capabilities,' the report in KCNA highlighted.

The North Korean state media had earlier reported that Kim had visited an air force unit on Wednesday, reviewing a flight exercise in his first public inspection of military activities in five months.

The latest test comes after the abrupt ending of the second United States-North Korea summit in Hanoi, Vietnam in February this year.

The two sides failed to release a joint agreement on the next steps in the denuclearisation process as differences over sanctions waivers could not be resolved.

Even then, the United States has maintained that its relationship with the reclusive state has remained good, with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo indicating that the two nations have kept in constant touch after the Hanoi summit.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry has accused Pompeo of playing down the significance of comments by Kim, who said last week that Washington has until the end of the year to offer mutually acceptable terms for an agreement to salvage the high-stakes nuclear diplomacy.

Both the demand for Pompeo's removal from the talks and the weapon test point to North Korea's displeasure with the deadlocked negotiations.

Kim had earlier suggested a year-end deadline for denuclearisation talks with the United States, showing his willingness to hold a third summit -- a move which was wholly welcomed by US President Donald Trump.  -- ANI
18:24   Over 61% turnout in 2nd phase; Bengal tops list
Total voter turnout for Second phase of  Lok Sabha Elections 2019 till 5 pm is 61.12 per cent.

Turnouts in various states till 5 pm are following:
Assam: 73.32 per cent
Bihar: 58.14 per cent
Chhattisgarh: 68.70 per cent
Jammu and Kashmir: 43.37 per cent
Karnataka: 61.80 per cent
Maharashtra: 55.37 per cent
Manipur: 74.69 per cent
Odisha: 57.41 per cent
Puducherry: 72.40 per cent
Tamil Nadu: 61.52 per cent
Uttar Pradesh 58.12%
West Bengal 75.27%

IMAGE: A voter shows her finger marked with indelible ink after casting vote in Kathua. Photograph: PTI Photo
17:03   Cong ditched me, but my family stands by me: Sujay Vikhe Patil
Sujay Vikhe Patil, the son of senior Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who is contesting the Ahmednagar Lok Sabha seat as a BJP candidate, says although the Congress did not stand by him, his family was supporting him in his first electoral battle. 

In an interview to PTI, Sujay slammed the NCP for making the election a personal issue, which prompted him to join the BJP. He said he had worked hard in the Ahmednagar Lok Sabha constituency for three years and deserved to "become an MP".

Sujay joined the saffron party last month. His decision came after the Sharad Pawar-led NCP's refusal to leave aside the Ahmedanagar Lok Sabha seat. A neurosurgeon by profession, Sujay said his decision to join the BJP was not an easy one.

"I have been speaking against the BJP-led government during my public engagements in three years. But the transition was smooth thanks to the NCP, whose leadership indulged in politics of revenge and gave a personal angle to its denial of ticket to me," he said.

"My decision to quit the Congress was because I felt from within that I had the support of the people given my work. For what reason should I stop?" he said. 

"There was no looking back for me. There was no going back. It was the Congress's responsibility to get the seat. But the NCP indulged in politics of revenge. There was a personal angle against the family and I had no other option," he said. 

NCP chief Sharad Pawar had last month alluded to how he ensured the defeat of Balasaheb Vikhe Patil, father of Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, (in an election in early 1990s) and that he also remembered the lawsuit the late Congress leader filed against him. 

Balasaheb Vikhe Patil had rebelled against the Congress and fought as an independent candidate in the 1991 Lok Sabha polls. Sujay also said an offer was made to him to contest as an NCP candidate.

-- PTI
Karnataka: 107-year-old Padma awardee, Saalumarada Thimmakka casts her vote for the Bangalore Rural parliamentary constituency. 
16:46   Expelled B'deshi actor apologises for campaigning
Popular Bangladeshi actor Ferdous Ahmed, who was expelled by the Indian government, has apologised for campaigning for a candidate in West Bengal, terming it as an "inadvertent mistake" and a step taken out of love of the people of the state. 

The Indian government on Tuesday issued a 'Leave India' notice to Ahmed and cancelled the business visa given to him for allegedly campaigning for a Trinamool Congress candidate in the state. 

The actor has also been "blacklisted" by the Union Home Ministry, jeopardising the chances of his future travel to India. "I apologise for my inadvertent mistake. I hope everyone will forgive me,' he was quoted as saying by bdnews24 news portal. 

Ferdous said he understood that it was a "mistake' to take part in election campaign of another country, he said in his statement to the news website on Wednesday after returning home the previous night. 

He said he had been "driven by emotion from the love of the people of West Bengal' when he had joined the campaign along with his Indian co-actors. Ahmed, along with a few Indian actors, allegedly took part in campaigning for TMC's Raiganj candidae Kahaiyalal Agarwal. 

The Bangladeshi film star was reportedly seen seeking votes for Aarwal at campaign rallies across Hemtabad and Karandighi near the Indo-Bangladesh border.  -- PTI
16:43   Won't jail farmers in debt, promises Rahul
In a veiled attack on the BJP, Congress president Rahul Gandhi Thursday said if his party is voted to power, indebted farmers will not be sent to jails. Addressing an election rally at Dataganj under Aonla parliamentary constituency here, he said, "Businessmen who took loans amounting to thousands of crores were allowed to flee the country instead of sending them to jail. While the farmers who took loans of Rs 20,000 and were unable to pay, were sent to jail. "Now, this will not happen, until and unless the big defaulters are sent to jail, not a single farmer will be sent to jail. As soon as our government is formed, the farmers will not be sent to jail for non-payment of loans," Gandhi asserted. 

He said the Congress after forming government in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan fulfilled its promise of farm loan waivers. "We will not allow two 'Hindustans' to come up in the country," he said. 

Attacking the SP and BSP, the Congress leader said, "Did the SP and BSP ever say 'chowkidar chor hai' (watchman is thief)? No, because their keys are with Modi." Gandhi also hit out at the Modi-led central government for its poor showing in generating employment in the country. 

He claimed that unemployment ratio, under the Modi dispensation, was the highest in the last 45 years. "By demonetisation, Modi took away people's money. Now, Congress will snatch the same money and deposit it in the accounts of poor people," he said. 

Referring to the minimum income guarantee scheme 'NYAY' proposed by the Congress, Gandhi said, "Once the Congress government is formed, it will ensure an annual income of Rs 72,000. "On one hand, there is 'anyaay' (injustice), while on the other, there is 'nyay' (justice). You have to select between truth and lies," he told the crowd. Congress general secretary and in-charge of western UP Jyotiraditya Scindia was also present on the occasion. -- PTI

Image: Rahul Gandhi with protesting farmers from Vidarbha in 2015
Voting underway at a polling booth in Imphal, Manipur.
15:43   51.6% votes cast in WB in first 4 hours
Around 51.6 per cent votes were cast in the first four hours in the three Lok Sabha constituencies of West Bengal, where polling is on under way in the second phase Thursday marred by incidents of violence in some areas, officials said. 

An EC official said that around 47.52 per cent polling was recorded in Darjeeling, 54.73 per cent in Jalpaiguri (SC) and 52.54 per cent in Raiganj seat, which reported the maximum incidents of violence from Chopra and Islampur areas. 

Special Police Observer Vivek Dubey, however, described the voting as "more or less peaceful" with a few isolated incidents reported from places in the three constituencies. "Small incidents will always occur but there is no big incident," he told reporters. 

A reporter and a camera person of a local news channel were allegedly manhandled when they went to cover polling at Kataphulbari in the Raiganj constituency.

Voters of Chopra under the same constituency reportedly put up a road blockade in protest against the absence of central forces at the polling stations, the official said. -- PTI 
15:26   The Singh family votes
Former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and his family cast their vote for the Rajnandgaon parliamentary constituency.
15:08   Parched village in Babbar's seat boycotts polls
Anguished over dismal development works, residents of a village in Agra in Uttar Pradesh refused to cast their votes for Lok Sabha elections on Thursday.

Around 650 voters of Mangoli village of Fatehpur Sikri Lok Sabha constituency boycotted the polling completely, alleging that their village had not received its share of development works.

The villagers are struggling with an acute shortage of water for drinking and irrigation. There is no proper system of garbage segregation in the village, they also alleged. 

The protesting villagers said that they will vote only after the district collector gives them in writing to resolve their woes. Sitting MLA and district authorities were trying to persuade them. UP Congress president Raj Babbar is contesting from the Lok Sabha seat. -- ANI
14:10   Sardar Patel statue not built to spite Nehru: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday said Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's imposing statue in Gujarat has not been built to "belittle" former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Speaking at an election rally here, Modi said though the Congress says Patel was their leader, no leader of that party has visited the statue so far.

"Don't you feel proud when the Statue of Unity and Gujarat's name appear when you search for the world's tallest statue on Google? "I have not built Sardar Patel's statue to belittle Pandit Nehru. Patel's stature is so tall that you don't have to try too hard to make others look smaller," Modi said in his speech, most of which was in Gujarati. 

The 'Statue of Unity', dedicated to Sardar Patel, was unveiled by Modi on October 31 last year at Sadhu Bet island on Narmada river. The 182-metre tall statue was built at a cost of Rs 2,389 crore. Modi also said his government has managed to contain terrorism to only "two and a half" districts in Jammu and Kashmir and that no bomb blast took place elsewhere in the country in the last five years. Modi said what he learnt in Gujarat helped him during the Doklam standoff with China in 2017.

Troops of India and China were locked in the 73-day- long standoff after the Indian side stopped construction of a road in the disputed tri-junction by the Chinese Army. 

"This is not an election rally for me, but a rally to say thanks to people of Gujarat for the grooming I received here," Modi said. Referring to various incidents of bomb blasts in the country previously, he said, "In the last five years no bomb blast took place in any other part of the country. We managed to contain terrorism to just two and a half districts in Jammu and Kashmir."

On Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's statement of trying to approach India after the Balakot air strike, Modi said the leader "had to make a public plea to us to pick up the phone". 

Hitting out at the previous Congress-led governments in the country, he said the Sardar Sarovar project should have been completed 40 years ago. In 2014, the Congress came to its lowest tally after Independence and in 2019, it is fighting on the lowest number of Lok Sabha seats but still "dreaming" of becoming the ruling party, he said. -- PTI
13:57   Shoes hurled at BJP spokesperson
A man flung shoes at BJP leaders addressing a press conference at the party's headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday. It was not immediately clear why the person, who identified himself as a doctor by profession, threw the shoes. He was immediately bundled out by security guards at the party office and will be handed over to police. At the time of the incident, BJP leaders Bhupendra Yadav and G V L Narsimha Rao were addressing the media with Rao attacking the Congress for defaming Hindus by foisting "false cases" on Hindutva activists, including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur. -- PTI
13:42   2nd phase: Voter turnout crosses 20%
West Bengal polled 33.52 per cent votes in the first five hours of polling in the second phase of Lok Sabha elections on Thursday.

The north-eastern state of Manipur is also witnessing a large number of voters turning up at booths and has clocked 31.52 per cent vote till noon.

At the same time, 30.53 per cent electorates have used their voting rights in Chhattisgarh and 26.71 per cent in Assam.

Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Puducherry have also crossed the 20 per cent mark in the first five hours of polling and have registered 20.46 per cent, 24.37 per cent and 25.09 per cent respectively, turnout till 12 noon.

Other states witnessed a surge in voter turnout after 10 am and clocked over 15 per cent votes on an average.

At 12 noon, voter turnout at Bihar is at 18.93 per cent, Karnataka at 19.98 per cent, Maharashtra at 19.04 per cent and Odisha at 19.12 per cent.

The two parliamentary constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir are also witnessing peaceful voting and as many as 17.78 per cent electorates have polled in the state so far.

The second phase of polling is being held in Assam (5), Bihar (5), Chhattisgarh (3), Jammu and Kashmir (2), Karnataka (14), Maharashtra (10), Manipur (1), Odisha (5), Tamil Nadu (38), Uttar Pradesh (8), West Bengal (3) and Union Territory Puducherry (1). -- ANI

Image: People line up to vote at Madurai. Pic: A Ganesh Nadar.  
13:28   CPM candidate's vehicle attacked in Bengal
In West Bengal, CPM candidate from Raiganj, Mohammad Salim's vehicle was attacked in Islampur; CPM has alleged that TMC is behind the attack.  Bengal polled 33.52 per cent votes in the first five hours of polling in the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections today. 
Karnataka Minister DK Shivakumar casts his vote at a polling booth in Dodda Halahalli, Kanakapura Taluka.
Union Minister Maneka Gandhi files her nomination from Sultanpur Lok Sabha constituency.
12:40   In Madurai, deity comes before duty
Tamil Nadu recorded 13.48 per cent voting till 9 am Thursday in 38 Lok Sabha constituencies of the state, with Chief Minister K Palaniswami and DMK chief M K Stalin among early voters. In Madurai, the time for voting has been extended by two hours in view of the ongoing Chithirai chariot festival, which marks the grand entry of Lord Kallazhagar into the Vaigai river.

A Ganesh Nadar/ reporting from Madurai say the festival gets predominance over voting. 

Pic: The image of Lord Kallazhagar makes his way down the streets of Madurai. Courtesy: A Ganesh Nadar. 
Poonam Sinha, SP-BSP-RLD candidate from the Lucknow Parliamentary constituency files her nomination. 
12:25   How can 'unwell' Sadhvi contest polls: Omar
Farooq and Omar Abdullah cast their votes at a polling station in Munshi Bagh Area in Srinagar LS constituency. "Now that LS polls are due to conclude, we can only hope that the Centre together with EC gives the people of J&K an elected govt which is their right."

Earlier today Omar had responded to Mehbooba Mufti's tweet saying she had agreed to form government with the BJP and should have known better. The context was the BJP fielding terror accused Sadhvi Pragya from Bhopal. 

Here's Mehbooba's tweet: "Imagine the anger if I'd field a terror accused. Channels would've  gone berserk by now trending  a mehboobaterrorist hashtag! According to these guys terror has no religion when it comes to saffron fanatics  but otherwise all Muslims are terrorists. Guilty until proven innocent."

Omar replied:  "These guys" were your allies until they unceremoniously unseated you. "These guys" have been this way before they came to power in 2014 but you only noticed their sins after June 2018.The desire to remain in power blinded you to their crimes until "these guys" forced you to see!"

After voting, Omar brought up Sadhvi Pragya's candidature saying, "BJP have given a ticket (from Bhopal) to a candidate who is not only an accused in a terror case but is also out on bail on health grounds. If her health condition doesn't permit her to be in jail,how does it permit her to contest polls?"   

BJP has given the coveted Bhopal ticket against senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, who is facing trial in the 2008 Malegaon blast case. The announcement was made hours after Thakur joined the BJP and expressed interest in contesting the Lok Sabha election from Bhopal.

A post-graduate in history, Thakur worked with the RSS' student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Durga Vahini, women's wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
Former cricketer Anil Kumble and his wife cast their vote. 
11:31   Will win 12/14 seats: Karnataka CM
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy said the Congress-JD(S) alliance is expected to win 10-12 seats out of 14 Lok Sabha constituencies in Karnataka which are undergoing polling today during the second phase of general elections.

"Today I request all voters to go to the polling station and cast their vote, whatever decision you will take will form the future of the country. Please put your valuable vote and don't miss it,"  Kumaraswamy said after casting his vote here on Thursday.

"Elections are crucial for protecting the interest of the farming community. Out of 14 Lok Sabha seats, the JDS-Congress candidates may achieve 10-12 seats in this election," he added.

Later, Kumaraswamy, while speaking to ANI, said, "Dynasty politics isn't an important issue now, country's problems are the main issue. Only because of dynasty politics and regional politics, this country developed in several states. We're not bothered about criticism from BJP."
11:03   Cong's Sushmita Dev votes
Assam: Sitting MP from Silchar and the Congress candidate from the parliamentary constituency, Sushmita Dev, casts her vote along with her mother and sister at a polling booth in Silchar. 
10:47   Raj Babbar votes
Agra: UP Congress chief Raj Babbar and the party's candidate from Fatehpur Sikri casts his vote at the polling booth in Radha Ballabh Inter College. 
10:46   2nd phase of polls: The voter turnouts so far
Tamil Nadu recorded 13.48 per cent voting till 9 am Thursday in 38 Lok Sabha constituencies of the state, where Union minister Pon Radhakrishnan, DMK's Dayanidhi Maran and Kanimozhi and Karti Chidambaram of the Congress are among key contenders.  Besides the 38 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats, bypolls to 18 Assembly segments are also underway.  Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo said polling was peaceful. 

Maharashtra: An average 8.6 per cent voter turnout was recorded till 9 am in 10 constituencies of Maharashtra where polling was underway in the second phase of Lok Sabha elections on Thursday, an official said. According to the state election office, Parbhani LokSabha seat recorded 9.3 per cent voting in the first two hours, while it was 8.88 per cent in Nanded. 

Odisha: Around 7 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the first two hours of polling Thursday in five Lok Sabha and 35 assembly constituencies in Odisha. The electoral fortunes of 279 candidates, including Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Union minister Jual Oram, will be decided in the second phase of voting. Over 76.93 lakh voters will decide the fate of 279 candidates in Thursday's polling. Out of the total electorate of 76,93,123, there are 37,47,493 women voters. At least 605 electors belong to the third gender. 

Uttar Pradesh: Voting is progressing at a slow pace in Uttar Pradesh, with an overall polling percentage of 10.76 being reported from the eight parliamentary constituencies in the state during the first two hours.  Polling is underway in Nagina (SC), Amroha, Bulandshahr (SC), Aligarh, Hathras (SC), Fatehpur Sikri, Mathura and Agra (SC) constituencies. Uttar Pradesh Congress president Raj Babbar and another actor-turned-politician Hema Malini are among the candidates whose fate will be decided in Thursday's polling.
10:23   Jet Airways shares tumble 10%
Shares of Jet Airways plunged 10 per cent in opening trade Thursday, a day after the ailing airline shuttered its operations temporarily. On the BSE, the scrip hit the lower circuit of Rs 217.70, a fall of 10 per cent compared to the previous closing level. 

A similar trend was witnessed on the NSE too, where the share crashed to hit the lower price band of Rs 216.45. With lenders deciding not to extend any emergency funds, Jet Airways on Wednesday announced temporary suspension of operations. 

Meanwhile, in a statement early Thursday, Jet Airways' lenders said they were reasonably hopeful of a successful bidding process for stake sale. The announcement came early morning ahead of market opening. -- PTI
10:18   If they can, so can you
Karnataka: A senior citizen couple, 91-year-old Shrinivas and 84-year-old Manjula, cast their votes at a polling booth in Jayanagar of Bangalore South Parliamentary constituency.
10:14   2nd phase: PM urges youth to vote to strengthen democracy
As polling for the phase two of Lok Sabha elections began Thursday morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the youth to cast their vote.
"Phase 2 of the Lok Sabha polls start today. I am sure all those whose seats are polling today will strengthen our democracy by exercising their franchise," he tweeted.
On election days, Modi usually takes to Twitter urging people to turn up at polling stations. 
"I hope more youngsters head to the polling booths and vote," he said. 
10:13   Rahul urges voters to vote for Nyay
As voting for the second phase of polling started Thursday morning, Congress president Rahul Gandhi urged voters to "vote for Nyay" (justice). Gandhi also appealed to voters to vote for justice to the unemployed youth, struggling farmers, small businessmen and those who were persecuted due to their religion or caste. He used the hashtag "VoteNyayVoteCongress" with his appeal.

"Nyay" is also the social welfare scheme announced by the Congress party in its election manifesto that promises to pay Rs 72,000 per annum to families living below the poverty line. The second phase of polling for Lok Sabha elections began today in 95 constituencies. -- PTI
10:02   Dinakaran votes
Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam chief TTV Dinakaran casts his vote at a polling station in Besant Nagar in Chennai South parliamentary constituency. 
09:54   Stalin shows the finger
In Chennai, DMK President MK Stalin casts his vote at a polling booth at SIET College in Teynampet. 
09:52   Kumaraswamys vote
Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy, his wife Anitha and their son & JD(S) candidate from Mandya, Nikhil, cast their votes at a polling station in Ramanagara.
09:52   2nd phase: PM urges youth to vote to strengthen democracy
As polling for the phase two of Lok Sabha elections began Thursday morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the youth to cast their vote.
"Phase 2 of the Lok Sabha polls start today. I am sure all those whose seats are polling today will strengthen our democracy by exercising their franchise," he tweeted.
On election days, Modi usually takes to Twitter urging people to turn up at polling stations. 
"I hope more youngsters head to the polling booths and vote," he said. 
09:49   Chhattisgarh: 2 Naxals killed in encounter
Two Naxals were killed in an encounter with District Reserve Guard in the forests of Dhanikarka under Kuakonda police station limits on Thursday.

The incident comes amidst polling in three Lok Sabha constituencies in Chhattisgarh, namely Kanker, Rajnandgaon and Mahasamund. 

The state has a total of 11 Lok Sabha seats, out of which Bastar Lok Sabha constituency voted in the first phase of elections. 

Voters had exercised their franchise in Naxal-affected regions of Dantewada and Sukma amid heavy security on April 11.

During the first phase of polling, a joint party of the Indo Tibetan Border Police and Chhattisgarh Police came under a Naxal ambush in the early hours of the day while on their way to a polling booth.

Rest of the 7 Parliamentary constituencies in Chhattisgarh will vote on April 23.
09:44   Jet lenders 'reasonably hopeful' of successful bids
Jet Airways lenders on Thursday said they are reasonably hopeful of a successful bidding process for stake sale, a day after the cash-starved carrier suspended its operations.
The announcement from the lenders came early morning ahead of market opening.
"The lenders after due deliberations decided that the best way forward for the survival of Jet Airways is to get the binding bids from potential investors who have expressed EOI (Expression of Interest) and have been issued bid documents on April 16," a statement said.
A consortium of 26 lenders led by State Bank of India, with 51 per cent stake in the debt trapped airline, has invited bids from potential suitors.
"Lenders are reasonably hopeful that the bid process is likely to be successful in determining fair value of the enterprise in a transparent manner," it said.
Banks on Wednesday rejected an immediate Rs 400 crore demand of Jet Airways compelling it to ground operations. -- PTI 
09:11   EC seeks report on I-T dept's seizure of 'bribe' cash in TN
Against the backdrop of the income tax department seizing cash allegedly meant to bribe voters in Tamil Nadu, the Election Commission on Wednesday sought a detailed report from poll authorities there. 
"Once the report is received, we will take a considered view. A decision can even be taken on election day," an official said.
The income-tax department Wednesday seized Rs 1.48 crore cash stashed allegedly by supporters of TTV Dinakaran's AMMK party to bribe voters in Tamil Nadu's Theni district, where an assembly bypoll is scheduled Thursday. -- PTI 
08:20   Voting underway for 95 LS seats in 2nd phase
The polling is underway for 95 Lok Sabha seats spread across 11 states and the union territory of Puducherry with Tamil Nadu witnessing contest in 38 constituencies.
Voting was also underway in 35 assembly constituencies in Odisha and in 18 assembly seats in Tamil Nadu.
Prominent faces in the fray in the Lok Sabha contest are Union ministers Jitendra Singh, Jual Oram, Sadananda Gowda and Pon Radhakrishnan; former prime minister H D Deve Gowda; DMK's Dayanidhi Maran, A Raja and Kanimozhi; Congress leaders Verappa Moily and Raj Babbar; National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and BJP's Hema Malini.
Over 15.80 crore voters will decide the fate of the 1,600-odd contestants.
In Tamil Nadu, polling is being held in 38 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats. Polling in Vellore Lok Sabha seat was cancelled Tuesday by the Election Commission following recovery of huge amount of cash allegedly from an associate of a DMK leader recently.
The EC also announced postponement of polling in Tripura (East) Lok Sabha seat to the third phase on April 23, saying the prevailing law-and-order situation there is not conducive for holding free and fair polls.
Besides Tamil Nadu, polling is being held in 14 seats in Karnataka, 10 in Maharashtra, eight in Uttar Pradesh, five each in Assam, Bihar and Odisha, three each in Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, two in Jammu and Kashmir and one seat each in Manipur and Puducherry. 
Of the 95 constituencies, the AIADMK holds the maximum of 36 seats, followed by the BJP with 27 seats. The Congress had won 12 of these seats in 2014, the Shiv Sena and the BJD 4 each, the JD-S and the RJD two each and the AIUDF, the NCP, the JD-U, the PDP, the AINRC, the PMK, the CPI-M and the TMC one seat each.
The Lok Sabha polls are being held in seven-phases for 543 seats on April 11, April 18, April 23, April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19, and counting will be on May 23. -- PTI 

Image: Actor-turned-politician Rajinikanth casts his vote at the polling station in Stella Maris College, in Chennai Central parliamentary constituency. Photograph: ANI
00:05   Cause of Notre Dame fire still to be ascertained
Authorities in Paris are still trying to piece together exactly what happened before Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire, which officials believe was an accident. About 50 investigators are involved with the probe, and they have started questioning 30 employees from different companies, including those that were involved in the cathedral's restoration work.

French newspaper Le Parisien reported that a fire alarm went off at Notre Dame shortly after 6 pm on Monday (local time) but a computer bug showed the fire's location in the wrong place. The paper reported the flames may have started at the bottom of the cathedral's giant spire and may have been caused by an electrical problem in an elevator.

At that point, fire spread quickly from the roof near the rear of Notre Dame. In less than an hour, it engulfed the spire, which -- just 13 minutes later -- collapsed as onlookers watched in horror.