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Mon, 25 March 2019
Nirav's firm moves HC against selling paintings

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23:25   Nirav's firm moves HC against selling paintings
The firm of Nirav Modi, the main accused in the $2 billion PNB scam case, has moved the Bombay High Court against a special court order which permitted the Income Tax Department to auction 68 paintings seized as part of its probe against the diamantaire.
  
In a petition filed before the high court, the firm, Camelot Enterprises, has said such action is unlawful.

According to the court website, the hearing of the petition is scheduled for April 1.

However, the petitioner is likely to seek an urgent hearing in the case, at an earlier date, since the auction is scheduled to begin on March 27.

Last week, a special court here permitted the Enforcement Directorate to auction 11 luxury vehicles belonging to Modi.

The special court also allowed the Income Tax Department to auction the high value art collection of the diamantaire who is wanted by agencies on charges of tax evasion and money laundering.

According to authorities, the 68 paintings are valued at more than Rs 50 crore.

Modi was arrested in London last week. He was remanded in custody till March 29 by a court there.

Modi and his uncle, Mehul Choksi, another accused in the case, had left India before the fraud came to light in January 2018.

The Income Tax Department had last month provisionally attached 29 properties and 105 bank accounts of Modi, his family members and firms as part of its probe.

The taxman had also filed a chargesheet against Modi before the special court under sections 276 C (1) (wilful attempt to evade tax), 277 A (false statement in verification), 278 B (offences by companies) and 278 E (presumption as to culpable mental state) of the Income Tax Act, 1961. 

-- PTI
23:11   JNU V-C accuses students of forcibly entering his residence, confining his wife inside
Jawaharlal Nehru University Vice-Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar alleged on Monday that the varsity students forcibly entered his house and confined his wife inside for several hours.
 
Seven students have been on a hunger strike since last week in protest against the online system of entrance exam that will be implemented from this academic session.
According to sources, students from Left outfits went to the vice-chancellor's residence to demand an audience with him since he had not been meeting them. When they went to meet him last week, he offered them sweets rather than addressing their concerns, 
On Monday evening, the students allegedly barged inside Kumar's residence while he was away and surrounded his wife. Police were called in and the wives of other university professors rescued her, a professor said.
Kumar's wife was rushed to a hospital as she was in a state of trauma.
"This evening few hundred students forcibly broke into my JNU residence and confined my wife inside home for several hours while I was away in a meeting. Is it the way to protest? Terrorosing (sic) a lonely lady at home?" Kumar asked on Twitter.
A student from a Left outfit rejected the allegation and said a group of students had gone to meet the vice-chancellor, but they were allegedly manhandled by the security personnel.
"We had gone to his residence to meet the V-C. We were manhandled by security personnel and many students have sustained injuries, including JNUSU president N Sai Balaji," the student said.  

-- PTI
22:31   Congress seeks to stall Modi biopic
The Congress on Monday moved the Election Commission to stall the release of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's biopic on the grounds that it is a politically-motivated film aimed at getting extra mileage for the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls.
  
Omung Kumar-directed film 'PM Narendra Modi' starring Vivek Oberoi is slated for release on April 5, just before the general election begins from April 11.

A Congress delegation comprising Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, R P N Singh, and Randeep Singh Surjewala, went to the Election Commission with a representation seeking stalling of the film's release just ahead of the polls.

"The purpose of this film is only political -- to get some extra mileage in the elections. We believe, it is not just a corrupt practice, but the very launch of the film is motivated," Sibal told reporters outside the Election Commission.

He alleged that three of the producers belonged to the BJP and actor Oberoi was also from the ruling party.

"So, the whole purpose is to gain advantage. This is violative of all norms. This is no artistic venture. It is a political venture and that is what we have told the Election Commission and should not be allowed. It does not allow for a level playing field," the senior Congress leader said.

"It violates the spirit of article 324 of the Constitution, it violates the cable network rules, it violates section 126 of the representation of people act," he said. 

The Congress has requested the EC to give a "reasoned order" on why its representation is either accepted or rejected. 

"The content, timing and motive (of the movie) is political," Sibal said.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Chief Electoral Office said it was awaiting a reply from the makers of the biopic after it felt that the film was allegedly violating the model code of conduct. 

-- PTI
21:56   Not enough support for Brexit deal vote yet: May
Britain's PM Theresa May says she does not have enough support to win a vote on her EU withdrawal deal "as things stand".

She said she would continue trying to get MPs to back it before putting it to the Commons for a third time this week.

The PM will also order Tory MPs to vote against a bid by a group of MPs, headed by Tory Sir Oliver Letwin, to hold votes on alternatives to her plan.

The government would give MPs time to hold such votes, but Mrs May said she was "sceptical" about the process.

And she said the government would not commit to delivering the outcome of the votes but would "engage constructively" with MPs.

"The votes could lead to an outcome that is un-negotiable with the EU," she told MPs.

"No government could give a blank cheque to commit to an outcome without knowing what it is. So I cannot commit the government to delivering the outcome of any votes held by this House, but I do commit to engaging constructively with this process."
21:06   Mueller report: Trump triumphant after being cleared of collusion
Donald Trump claims he has been completely exonerated by an inquiry into allegations Russia conspired to help him win the 2016 election.

A summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's long-awaited report released on Sunday found the Trump campaign had not conspired with Russia.

However it was inconclusive on whether Mr Trump had obstructed justice.

The Russia allegations had cast a shadow over Trump's presidency and his chances of re-election in 2020.

Opposition Democrats are demanding full access to Mueller's report, which was summarised for Congress by Attorney General William Barr.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump would let Barr decide what to release but the president himself was "more than happy for any of this stuff to come out".

The report was the culmination of two years of investigation by Mueller which saw some of the president's closest former aides prosecuted and, in some cases, imprisoned, although not for collusion with Russia.

Speaking at Palm Beach International Airport in Florida, Trump declared: "There was no collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction... It was a complete and total exoneration."
20:36   'No sacrifice too big to safeguard Jet Airways'
Naresh Goyal, who is quitting as chairman of Jet Airways under a debt resolution plan, Monday said no sacrifice is too big for him to safeguard the interest of the airline and the families of its 22,000 employees.
 
Goyal is also the founder of the full-service airline, which has been operating for more than 25 years.
 
"No sacrifice is too big for me to safeguard the interest of Jet Airways and the families of the 22,000 employees. For the sake of my family of 22,000 employees and their respective families, I have today taken the step of stepping down from the board of Jet Airways," he said in a statement issued by the airline.
He became chairman of the company in April 1992.

"My family is behind me and with me in this decision and I hope you will support my decision too. I will miss you one and all," Goyal said. 

-- PTI
20:03   Milind Deora replaces Sanjay Nirupam as Mumbai Congress chief
The Congress on Monday appointed former union minister Milind Deora as Mumbai Regional Congress Committee chief, replacing Sanjay Nirupam.
  
Nirupam had been at loggerheads with senior party leaders in the state and the move has come as a bid to quell the intense infighting within the Mumbai Congress.

"Congress president Rahul Gandhi has appointed Milind Deora as the new president of the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee. The party appreciates the contribution of outgoing president Sanjay Nirupam," a statement from the party said.

Nirupam, meanwhile, was nominated as the party candidate from the Mumbai North West Lok Sabha constituency.

Deora, the son of former oil minister Murli Deora, is considered close to the Congress chief.

Nirupam, a former two-time Rajya Sabha member and was earlier with the Shiv Sena, was appointed the president of the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee in March 2017. 

During his two-year stint as the MRCC chief, the party witnessed bickerings and increased differences among local leadership leading to public spats.

-- PTI
19:37   Jaitley rips Congress minimum income plan
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today slammed Congress president Rahul Gandhi for promising India's poor a "historic" minimum income guarantee scheme, saying that a party with such a terrible track record of poverty alleviation has no right to make such assurances.

Jaitley claimed that the Congress has a history of making false promises. "They had promised a farm loan waiver of Rs 72,000 in 2008, but gave away only Rs 52,000. A Comptroller and Auditor General later found that Delhi businessmen ended up getting most of the money," he said.

Gandhi had earlier today announced a minimum income guarantee scheme of Rs. 72,000 a year for India's poorest families if the Congress came to power. He said that the money, which would be directly transferred to the bank accounts of 20% of the poorest in the country, would lift five crore families out of poverty.

The Union finance minister, in his statement, claimed that the Narendra Modi government was already giving 1.5 times the amount promised by Gandhi to the country's poor. "We are already give Rs. 75,000-crore fertiliser subsidy and spending Rs. 20,000 crore on health. We are already giving 70-80 per cent through direct bank transfer, and the rest can be given the same way," he explained.
19:33  
Former Union minister Milind Deora appointed new Mumbai Regional Congress Committee chief, replacing Sanjay Nirupam.
19:23   Sad day for Indian aviation: SpiceJet on exit of Naresh Goyal
Low-cost airline SpiceJet said on Monday that it was a sad day for Indian aviation as Naresh Goyal and his wife Anita Goyal stepped down from the board of financially-strapped Jet Airways.

"Today is indeed a sad day for Indian aviation. By launching a truly world class airline, Naresh and Anita Goyal made India proud," said SpiceJet's Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh.

"This is also a wake-up call for Indian policy makers," he said. "We urgently need to address structural challenges that make India's airlines uncompetitive to airlines around the world," Singh added.

According to reports, SpiceJet is planning to lease Jet Airways' grounded planes from their lessors. The move is aimed at restoring the aviation industry's seat capacity and keeping air fares in check.

Singh is credited with turnaround of budget carrier SpiceJet, which was once in dire financial straits. The airline has clocked the highest load factor for several quarters in a row. 

-- ANI
19:03   Air India stops boarding passes with pics of PM
The government-owned Air India on Monday decided to withdraw its boarding passes bearing photographs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani after they came in for criticism.

The airline's statement comes after former Punjab Director General of Police Shashi Kant tweeted a photograph of his boarding pass which showed photos of Modi and Rupani in an advertisement for the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2019 held in January.

"At New Delhi airport today March 25th, 2019. My Air India Boarding Pass, prominently flashes Narendra Modi, "Vibrant Gujrat" [and] Vijay Rupani," Kant tweeted. "...Wonder why we are wasting public money on this Election Commission, which doesn't see, hear or speak..."

Meanwhile, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted: "I was on a Go Air flight yesterday and also had a similar boarding pass with the PM's photo on it."

Air India earlier said it will withdraw the boarding passes if they are found to be in violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

It said the boarding passes seem to be the ones left over from those during the Vibrant Gujarat Summit and the photos are third-party advertisements.

It may be recalled that on March 20, the Indian Railways withdrew train tickets with photos of Modi after the Trinamool Congress complained to the Election Commission on violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

The railways had said it was a third-party advertisement and the tickets were printed almost a year back. 

-- ANI
18:35   Rahul, Sonia to be among star campaigners in Telangana
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi,former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former cricketers Navjot Singh Sidhu and Mohd Azharuddin, actors Kushboo and Nagma will be among 40 star campaigners for the April 11 Lok Sabha polls in Telangana.
    
The leaders's names figured in the list of 40 star campaigners released by the Congress.
     
Congress Lok Sabha leader Mallikarjun Kharge, Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy and Congress leaders from various states, including G Parameshwara, D K Shivkumar, Ashok Chavan will canvass for party candidates.   

Senior party leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Meira Kumar, Jyotiraditya M Scindia, Salman Khurshid and Jairam Ramesh will also campaign for the party in the state, party sources said.       

Former MP and actress Vijayashanti will also take part in the campaigning.
   
The Congress is contesting all 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana, elections for which are scheduled on April 11.

-- PTI
18:12   Expect buyer for Jet by May 31: SBI chairman
State Bank of India on Monday said that it expects investors for the cash-strapped Jet Airways by the end of May and promoter Naresh Goyal has option of increasing his stake in the beleaguered airline to beyond 25 per cent in the future.

Consortium of lenders led by the SBI has agreed to put in Rs 1,500 crore immediate funding by acquiring 51 per cent stake in the company through issue of Rs 11.4 crore fresh shares.

As a result, the stake of promoter Naresh Goyal will come down to 25 per cent from 50 per cent, while Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways, which had a 24 per cent stake in the carrier, came down to 12 per cent.

Bidding process to be initiated by lenders for sale to new investor(s), the process expected to be completed in June quarter as per the resolution plan. 

"June is too late. My expectation is May 31...market is open for everyone whosoever wants to come in. There will be expression of interest which will be given by April 9 and binding bid by April 30," SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar told CNBC TV18.

"It could be financial investor, it could be airline...including Naresh Goyal himself or Etihad. No body is barred from bidding or taking over the airline as per the rule," he said.

Jet Airways Founder and Chairman Naresh Goyal and his wife Anita Goyal will step down from the board of the ailing airline following reduction in their stake to 25 per cent as per the resolution plan formulated by SBI-led domestic lenders.

After weeks of speculations and uncertainties over the future course of Jet Airways, which has grounded over 80 planes due to financial woes, approved constitution of an Interim Management Committee to manage and monitor the daily operations and cash flow of the company.

-- PTI
17:44   Modi to address rally in Jammu on March 28
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address a public rally in the outskirts of Jammu city on March 28 in support of party candidates for the Lok Sabha elections, a senior BJP leader said Monday. 


Sitting BJP MPs Jugal Kishore Sharma and Jitendra Singh are seeking re-election from the Jammu and the Udhampur parliamentary constituencies in the state.


"Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address a public rally to be held at Panchayat Doomi, tehsil Bhalwal, in Jammu on March 28," BJP national vice-president and J&K in-charge Avinash Rai Khanna said.


Khanna reviewed the arrangements of the rally at a meeting of party leaders here after inspecting the venue site. BJP state president Ravinder Raina and other senior leaders from the state were present in the meeting. 

-- PTI
17:42   BJP neta calls top leadership 'Gujju thugs'
The BJP Monday expelled one of its senior Lucknow-based leaders after he dubbed the party's top leadership as "Gujarati thugs" and asked if the BJP has chosen a 'pradhan mantri' (prime minister) or a prachar mantri (advertisement minister). 


While attacking the BJP's top leadership in a series of tweets, the party's former spokesperson I P Singh also hailed Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav's candidature from Azamgarh and offered him his residence for use as his poll campaign office. 


"I P Singh has been expelled from the party for six years on directions of the BJP state president," said a party release in Lucknow. The expulsion followed after Singh attacked the BJP leadership in a series of tweets from his official Twitter account having a prefix "usuldaar" (principled) to his name. 


"I belong to a principled 'kshatriya' family. Two Gujarati thugs have been befooling Hindi-speaking people for the last five years after capturing the country's Hindi heartland, while we are silent," he said in one of his tweets Friday.


"Our UP is six times bigger than Gujarat with an economy of Rs five lakh crore against Gujarat's Rs one lakh 15 thousand crore," said Singh, adding, in such a situation what would they eat and what development would they cause. 


In another tweet, he said, "Have we elected a 'pradhan mantri' or 'prachar mantri'? Does the country's prime minister look good selling t-shirt and tea cup?" 


"The BJP has been a party which made its place in the people's hearts through its ideology. It's impossible to 'produce' workers with missed calls and T-shirts," he added. 


An Azamgarh native, Singh had on Sunday also welcomed Akhilesh Yadav's candidature from there and offered his house to be used as his election office. "The people of eastern UP are overjoyed and the youths here are excited after the announcement of Akhilesh Yadav's candidature from Poorvanchal. It heralds an end of the politics of caste and religion," said Singh.
17:30   2019 polls: Rs 33 crore order for indelible ink
@dp_satish: Mysore Paints is the only authorized manufacturer of indelible ink for elections across India. EC has placed Rs 33 crore order this time.
17:27   Tainted ex-minister Sukh Ram, grandson join Cong
Former Union telecom minister Sukh Ram and his grandson Aashray Sharma on Monday joined the Congress, AICC in-charge for Himachal Pradesh Rajni Patil said. Sukh Ram and Aashray Sharma met Congress president Rahul Gandhi and joined the Congress. 


Aashray Sharma, son of cabinet minister Anil Sharma in the Jai Ram Thakur-led BJP government in Himachal Pradesh, seeks to contest from Mandi parliamentary seat. He quit the BJP after the saffron party renominated its sitting MP Ramswaroop Sharma from Mandi. 


Aashray's father Anil Sharma had been a part of Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government in the state from 2012-17, but joined the BJP before the last state assembly elections. 


The latest development has put Anil Sharma in a spot. Whether he will quit the ruling party in the state and campaign for his son or stay put with the BJP and cheer for the party's Mandi candidate will be clear only in the coming days. 


On asked whether Aashray will be announced Congress candidate from Mandi, Patil said his name will be considered and final decision will be made known on March 29. Mandi is also the home district of Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur. 


Aashray's grandfather Sukh Ram also wields considerable clout in the Mandi segment from where he was elected as an MP thrice. -- PTI
17:23   Kamal to campaign for TMC candidate in Andamans
Kamal Haasan, Makkal Needhi Maiam after meeting West Bengal CM: Meeting was excellent we are proud to say that Makkal Needhi Maiam is an ally of TMC in Andaman. We hope this relation evolves in future. I'm going to campaign for their candidate (in Andaman).
16:44   Vadra can't be arrested till March 27
A Delhi court Monday extended Robert Vadra's interim protection from arrest till March 27 in a money laundering case. Special judge Arvind Kumar granted the interim relief to Vadra, brother-in-law of Congress president Rahul Gandhi. 


Senior advocate KTS Tulsi, appearing for Vadra, denied all allegations against him and said that Vadra has not misused the liberty granted to him by the court. Vadra has been alleged of money laundering in the purchase of a London-based property at 12, Bryanston Square, worth 1.9 million pounds. -- PTI
16:41   Kamal Haasan meets Mamata
The lady is not amused: Makkal Needhi Maiam chief Kamal Haasan meets Chief Minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee at Nabanna in Howrah. 
16:26   Yogi targets 'ancestral corrupt'
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Monday took a swipe at Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and his sons over an alleged disproportionate assets case, claiming the court will punish the "ancestral corrupt" for their deeds. 


He shared a news report on Twitter which said the Supreme Court was going to hear on Monday a plea in connection an alleged disproportionate assets case against Mulayam Singh and his sons Akhilesh and Prateek. 


"The evil deeds of the corrupt are coming to light and they have looted people. The honourable court will give due punishment to these 'khandani bhrastachari" (ancesteral corrupt) for their deeds," he claimed. "Be cautious of them as in order to avoid going to jail they will divide you on basis of caste and religion. All thieves are united in fear of chowkidar (watchman) but how long will they be able to save themselves," he said. 


The apex court Monday issued notice to the CBI on a plea seeking direction to the probe agency that it place the investigation report in the disproportionate assets case. -- PTI
16:19   Air India withdraws boarding passes with ads of Vibrant Gujarat
Government-owned Air India on Monday decided to withdraw boarding passes with advertisements of Vibrant Gujarat. Shashi Kant, a former Director General of Police from police, had complained that the airline his boarding pass carried pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Vibrant Gujarat campaign after the Model Code of Conduct had come into effect before the general elections.


"I wonder why we are wasting public money on this," he said in a tweet. The boarding passes were printed during the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, which was held in January. -- ANI
16:16  
A Congress delegation comprising Randeep Singh Surjewala, Kapil Sibal, and Abhishek Manu Singhvi to meet Election Commission of India over the biopic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi later today. 
16:02   Food inflation likely to go up to 2% in FY20: Report
Food inflation in the country is likely to go up to 2 percent in fiscal year 2019-20 from the 0.7 percent estimated for FY19, a report said Monday. It can be noted that the low food prices have been one of the prime factors which has aided the RBI to be more accommodatory in its rate setting recently. 


In the report, foreign brokerage Goldman Sachs attributed the low food prices in the last few months to the prices of cereals and vegetables which have been low for some time.


Deregulation of markets, which saw delisting of vegetables from the Agriculture Produce and Marketing Committee Act (APMC) in 14 states, has helped the vegetable prices, it said. In the case of cereals, "active food management" policies have helped, it said, adding the government released buffer stocks in large quantities and went in for higher imports on this front.


Going forward, the food inflation is unlikely to shoot up sharply unless there is some shock related to weather events, it said. "Food inflation is likely to remain subdued going forward," it said, adding average food inflation will go up in the 1.5-2 percent range in FY20 from the 0.7 percent in FY19.  -- PTI
15:57   Hema Malini files nomination papers
Sitting Mathura MP Hema Malini files her nomination papers from the Lok Sabha constituency as BJP candidate for the LS polls. 
15:47   Former jailbird Sukh Ram to join Cong
Just in: Former Union minister Sukh Ram, his grandson Aashray Sharma, join Congress: AICC in-charge for Himachal Congress Rajni Patil.
15:44   Son rise
Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy's son Nikhil Kumaraswamy files his nomination papers as the Congress-JD(S) coalition candidate from Mandya for the LS polls. 
15:32   Time for change has come: Rahul
Rahul Gandhi tweets: Today is a historic day...  It is on this day that the Congress party launched its final assault on poverty. 5 Crore of the poorest families in India, will receive Rs. 72,000 Per Year #NyayForIndia is our dream & our pledge. The time for change has come. 
15:23   Naresh Goyal steps down from Jet board
Jet Airways founders and principal promoters Naresh Goyal and his wife stepped down from the board and quit the airline they founded nearly 25 years ago.

Naresh Goyal is in London, and is likely to address his employees from there. 

The current CEO Vinay Dube is expected to stay on and steer Jet out of the current crisis. 


Jet's lenders consortium may invoke the entire 51% stake of Naresh Goyal in the airline, and start looking for a new buyer in the weeks to come. 
15:05   'Neutral' Rajasthan guv wants BJP to win
Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh on Monday said that as a party worker he genuinely wants the Bharatiya Janata Party to win in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.Speaking to media persons in Aligarh on Saturday, Singh said, 


"As a worker of BJP, I genuinely want BJP to win. We want that once again Narendra Modi should become the Prime Minister of India. It is important for nation and society that Narendra Modi should become Prime Minister again." 


Singh who has previously served as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh was appointed as the Governor of Rajasthan in 2014. 


A Governor is considered a neutral post and the person in office doesn't side with any particular political party.Earlier in February, Singh stated that time has come to scrap Article 370 which grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir.


"The time has come to scrap Article 370 as it encourages separatists. This, in turn, poses a threat to the country's unity and integrity. Jammu and Kashmir will largely benefit from scrapping Article 370," he told ANI.


Singh also said that only Prime Minister Narendra Modi can successfully implement this. 


"Nobody else is capable enough of doing this. We are sure that he will take stringent action against terrorism. Our Army is very capable, we are sure they will teach Pakistan a lesson."
14:25   Rahul promises Rs 6000 pm to 25 crore poor
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has promised to give Rs 72,000 per annum to 20% of India's most poor families under the minimum basic income guarantee scheme if the Congress comes to power after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The scheme will benefit 5 crore families and 25 crore individuals directly.

"After doing all the calculations several times, we have found that this scheme is fiscally possible," Gandhi said while addressing a press conference today. "There is no such scheme anywhere else in the world. We will eradicate poverty. This is the finaly assault on poverty," Rahul said at a press conference, for once, steering clear from the Rafale controversy. 
13:46   'Mother India is as much mine as it is Yogij's'
Imran Masood, Congress candidate from Saharanpur on UP CM's remark that Saharanpur also has a son-in-law of Masood Azhar: "It's unfortunate, you can't question somebody's patriotism. If the country needs my head I will lay down my head. Mother India is as much mine as it is Yogi-ji's."


Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath -- who launched the BJP's election campaign in Uttar Pradesh with a rally in Saharanpur -- generated controversy on Sunday by linking the Congress candidate to Pakistani terrorist Masood Azhar. 


Congress's Imran Masood, an influential leader from the area, is up against the BJP's sitting lawmaker Raghav Lakhanpal in Saharanpur, which will vote in the first phase on April 11.  -- PTI
12:37   Cong awaits Rahul's nod on alliance with AAP
Delhi Congress president Sheila Dikshit and other leaders of the unit Monday discussed the possibility of an alliance with the AAP for the Lok Sabha polls in the city in a meeting with party chief Rahul Gandhi. 


The opinion on the issue remained divided and everyone in the meeting was unanimous that Gandhi should take a final call on it in the larger interest of the party, said a participant of the meeting. 


Sources said four former Delhi Congress presidents -- Ajay Maken, Subhash Chopra, Tajdar Babar and Arvinder Singh Lovely -- favoured an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi. 


"AICC in-charge of Delhi Congress PC Chacko also handed over signed letters of 12 district Congress presidents, leaders of the party and councilors in three municipal corporation, in favour of the alliance, to Gandhi," they said. 


Delhi Congress president Sheila Dikshit and three working presidents Devender Yadav, Rajesh Lilothia, and Haroon Yusuf maintained their stand against the alliance, sources said. -- PTI
12:16   How a brave girl filmed the viral Gurugram attack
"Mere naam ka matlab akalmand hain (My name means being mindful)," 21-year-old Daanishtha Siddiqui says with a wide grin. She shot the video which showed how at least 25 men from the Hindu Gujjar community brutally attacked her family on Holi in Gurugram's Bhondsi district.


Read the report here. 
12:06   AI boarding pass has PM pic
A boarding pass issued by Air India with pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has come under criticism, days after the PM's photo on railway tickets created a furore. The airline said the passes featuring the photographs, which were third-party advertisements, would be withdrawn if they are found to be in violation of the Model Code of Conduct. 


Former Punjab DGP Shashi Kant on Monday tweeted a photograph of his boarding pass issued at the New Delhi airport, questioning how pictures of the two leaders could be on it.  "At New Delhi airport today March 25th, 2019. My Air India Boarding Pass, prominently flashes Narendra Modi, "Vibrant Gujrat" & Vijay Rupani. Picture of boarding pass is below.
Wonder why we are wasting public money on this Election Commission, which doesn't see, hears or speak...," the DGP tweeted.


Air India spokesperson Dhananjay Kumar said the boarding passes seemed to be one printed during the Vibrant Gujarat Summit held in January and the photographs were part of the advertisement from 'third parties'. 


"The rolls seem to be the ones left over from the boarding passes printed during the Vibrant Gujarat Summit and the photos are third-party advertisements. It has nothing to do with Air India. 


"However, we are scrutinising if third-party ads fall within the purview of the Model Code of Conduct. If they do, these will be withdrawn. These boarding passes are not just for Gujarat, but are in use across India,"Kumar said. 


On March 20, tickets with photos of the prime minister were withdrawn by the railways after the Trinamool Congress complained to the Election Commission about them. The railways had also said that it was a third-party ad and leftover from a pack of tickets printed a year earlier. The national transporter had instructed zones to withdraw the tickets. -- PTI


Image: The boarding pass with the PM and Gujarat CM's pictures. Pic courtesy: @shashikantips54
11:53   Who controls services in Delhi? AAP moves SC
The AAP government on Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking the constitution of a larger bench to expeditiously decide the issue of who controls the services in Delhi. 


A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi told the Delhi government counsel that it will look into the matter. The apex court had on February 14 referred the issue of control of services to a larger bench after delivering a split verdict. 


The two-judge bench had said that the Centre should have the final word on posting and transfer of bureaucrats in the national capital administration, but their disagreement on finer details resulted in a split verdict and the matter got referred to a larger bench. -- PTI
11:47   Government's two faces on minorities
"India has periodically raised with Islamabad the subject of the treatment of minorities in Pakistan, but has always treaded carefully for fear of jeopardising their lot further.Just as Muslims in India are forced to carry the baggage of being identified with Pakistan because of their religion, Hindus in Pakistan are often called "Indians'.


"Even when the subject of the forcible conversion and marriage of Hindu girls reached Pakistan's Supreme Court in 2012 (Rinkle Kumari case), India had raised the issue through diplomatic channels without commenting too openly on it, except in Parliament in response to a question.Under the Simla Agreement of 1972, both countries have a policy of non-interference in each other's internal affairs. Any comment from Pakistan on the state of minorities in India has always nettled New Delhi.


"Pakistan has in recent times made several such references, a few of which came from Prime Minister Imran Khan. India has rejected the charges, accusing Pakistan of hypocrisy and citing how not just minorities but also the smaller sects of Islam have come under attack in the neighbouring country."


Read the column here. 
11:23   Absurd PIL in SC
This is why Indian courts have such a huge backlog of cases. 

The Supreme Court today rejected a PIL challenging the bus fare of Rs 49 to go to the temple in Sabarimala in Kerala. A bench of the apex court, headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi said,"Sorry, we can't decide here what should be the bus fare? Are we now going to decide the bus fare?" 
11:15   Kamal Haasan to meet Mamata today
Makkal Needhi Maiam leader Kamal Haasan to meet West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata today. Haasan did not figure in the second and final list of candidates for the Lok Sabha election and bypolls to the 18 assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu.    


Announcing the list of candidates at massive public meeting in Coimabtore on Sunday, Haasan said that name did not figure in it as there were large number of nominations in his name from almost all the constituencies.  He stated that there was no cause for worry since all the candidates were his faces.  Haasan said instead of being in the palanquin, he preferred to shoulder it.
11:02   You go, girl!
Yes, that's Deepika Padukone essaying an acid attack survivor... 
The actress took to social media to unveil her look in the film inspired by acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal. "A character that will stay with me forever...#Malti Shoot begins today!#Chhapaak Releasing-10th January, 2020. @meghnagulzar @foxstarhindi @masseysahib." 

10:45   Dawood aide dies
Former Dawood Ibrahim aide Shakeel Ahmed Shaikh also known as Lambu Shakeel has passed away at Mumbai's Jaslok hospital. He was suffering from a heart disease. His former boss is yet to return to India, 26 years after the Mumbai serial blasts killed 257 people.  
10:31   Chinook choppers will be game changers: Dhanoa
Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa on the induction of the Chinook choppers: "Country faces a multiple security challenges; we require vertical lift capability across a diversified terrain. Chinook has been procured with India specific enhancements; it's a national asset.


"Chinook helicopters can carry out military operations not only in the day but during the night too; another unit will be created for the east in Dinjan (Assam). Induction of Chinook will be a game changer the way Rafale is going to be in the fighter fleet."


The Indian Air Force inducted the first unit of four US-made Chinook heavy-lift helicopters on Monday. The first four of such 15 choppers have arrived at Chandigarh's Air Force Station 12 Wing for their deployment by the IAF. Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa inducted the aircraft this morning. 
10:22   Sensex falls over 325 points on weak global cues
The benchmark BSE Sensex plunged over 325 points and slipped below the 38,000-mark in early trade Monday, in tandem with weak global cues and depreciating rupee. 


The 30-share index, which had lost 222.14 points on Friday, was trading lower by 325.49 points, or 0.85 per cent, at 37,845.24. Reflecting the bearish mood, all the sectoral indices, led by realty, metal and auto, were trading in the negative zone with losses of up to 1.57 per cent. 


Similarly, the NSE Nifty fell 103.90 points, or 0.78 per cent, to 11,353 after hitting a low of 11,342.90. Brokers said, besides profit-booking in recent gainers, rupee's fall below the 69-mark against the dollar and weak cues from global markets weighed on investor sentiments. 


Global cues turned weak tracking Friday's sell-off on the Wall Street after a weak manufacturing data from the US and Europe raised fears of an economic slowdown. 


Laggards in domestic equities were Vedanta Ltd, Sun Pharma, Tata Steel, Kotak Bank, SBI, Tata Motors, RIL, ICICI Bank, Yes Bank, HDFC Ltd, Axis Bank, M&M, L&T, IndusInd Bank, ITC Ltd, HCL Tech, Bajaj Auto, HDFC Bank and Infosys, falling by up to 2.16 per cent. 


Bucking the trend, shares Coal India, Maruti Suzuki and Hero MotoCorp rose up to 0.84 per cent.  -- PTI


Image: Bank stocks among others, fell by 2.16 per cent 
10:06   IAF to induct four Chinook choppers today
The Indian Air Force will be inducting the first unit of four US-made Chinook heavy-lift helicopters on Monday. The first four of such 15 choppers have arrived at Chandigarh's Air Force Station 12 Wing for their deployment by the IAF. Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa will induct the aircraft, the IAF said.


On the features of the chopper, the IAF posted on its official Twitter handle: "Chinook is a heavy lift, tandem rotor helicopter which serves armed forces of 19 countries. It is a multi-role platform and is used for the transport of troops and material among other roles. It will greatly enhance IAF's HADR capability."


India has paid close to USD 1.5 billion for 15 of these helicopters which would be also used for deploying troops and machinery at high-altitude locations.


Chinook is one of the two helicopters other than the Apache attack choppers for which India had signed deals in 2015-16. The supplies of Apaches will also start by September this year when they start arriving at the Pathankot airbase. -- ANI
09:55   Kamal Haasan not to contest LS polls
Makkal Needhi Maiam president Kamal Haasan did not figure in the second and final list of candidates for the Lok Sabha election and bypolls to the 18 assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu.
    
Announcing the list of candidates at massive public meeting in Coimabtore on Sunday, Haasan said that name did not figure in it as there were large number of nominations in his name from almost all the constituencies.
 
He stated that there was no cause for worry since all the candidates were his faces.
 
Haasan said instead of being in the palanquin, he preferred to shoulder it.
 
He also assured the public that all the winners would deliver and fulfil the promises they had made during the regime, adding that they would be removed if proved otherwise.
 
A single complaint against them will be inquired into by a committee and if found guilty, they will be immediately asked to tender their resignation, Haasan said.
 
The MNM chief also released the party manifesto, assuring to permanently solve the drinking water problem, wiping out poverty from the state, ensure slum-free Tamil Nadu, equal wages for women labourers as men in all sectors.
 
He vouched to unite the Tamil diaspora across the world. safeguard the human rights of the Tamil workforce across the globe and reform the existing anti-corruption Lokayukta act and appoint a credible ombudsman. -- PTI
09:45   'Maybe 10, 15 years later, Rahul may mature as a politician'
"This business of monopoly of one family must end."Here, they picked up a few leaders for him as he needed support which was okay, but later, they became his cronies."


Tom Vadakkan, a Congress spokesperson who was perceived to be close to Sonia Gandhi recently resigned from the party and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party.


Congress President Rahul Gandhi described Vadakkan as a 'man with no mass following'.


"When you don't have access to the leadership, what are you supposed to do?" Vadakkan asks Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier.

Read the interview here. 
09:24   PM urges prominent personalities for #VoteKar
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday appealed to prominent personalities from different fields to inspire people to vote in the Lok Sabha elections.
 
As part of his "#VoteKar" campaign on Twitter, the prime minister urged personalities from the fields of sports, entertainment, and media to create increased voter awareness.
"My fellow Indians, The time has come to say- #VoteKar. In the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, ensure that you as well as your family and friends turnout in record numbers. Your doing so will have a positive impact on the nation's future," he tweeted.
"If you are undertaking any innovative voter awareness campaign, do share details using #VoteKar. Together, we will ensure maximum Indians exercise their franchise," he said on Twitter.
Modi tagged film personalities and sportspersons like Anupam Kher, Kabir Bedi, Shekhar Kapur, Hritisk Roshan, Madhuri Dixit, Ajay Devgan and Anil Kapoor and urged them to help support the "VoteKar" movement to ensure high voter turnout in the elections.
He told film directors and actors that while they have made India proud internationally, they must help fellow citizens create voter awareness.
Appealing to media personalities, he asked them to devote time and energy towards boosting voter turnout in the upcoming elections.
"Today a large number of youngsters consume news on the move. It's time to motivate them to #VoteKar to ensure a better tomorrow," he said in a tweet.
"On the cricket field, @SDhawan25, @BhuviOfficial and @ashwinravi99 shine with their incredible talent and absolute commitment towards their team. I urge them to encourage greater voter awareness and voter participation. Young India will follow their lead," the prime minister said using the hashtag "VoteKar".
He also asked noted athletes Hima Das, Dipa Karmakar and Sakshi Malik, "India is proud of you and you inspire many others youngsters. Now, it is time to inspire greater voter awareness and participation, especially among youngsters." -- PTI  
09:13   Govt's new policy is to choke democratic space in Kashmir: Mehbooba
Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti said choking the democratic space and punishing people collectively was a new policy adopted by the Centre to deal with Kashmir.
 
The purpose behind the "repressive measures being taken in Jammu and Kashmir by the BJP-led government is to show the electorate how tough the saffron party is against Kashmiris", Mufti claimed.
"Choking democratic space and punishing people collectively is unfortunately a new policy adopted by the government of India to deal with Kashmir," the former chief minister said at a PDP youth convention in Srinagar,.
Referring to a ban imposed on the JKLF and the Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir, she said it was ironical that while on one hand, the central government claims to have launched a rehabilitation scheme for militants who lay down arms, on the other, organisations like Jammat and JKLF, which have rejected violence as a method of achieving any goal, are slapped with bans.
"The JKLF is committed to resolution through political means, while the Jamaat-e-Islami is a religious and social organisation running schools and orphanages across the state. Such repressive measures will shrink the already limited space and will only increase the level of alienation and frustration among the people," Mufti said.
The PDP chief termed the upcoming elections crucial for determining the future of the state. -- PTI 
09:00   Himanta Sarma is above Amit Shah in NE: Madhav
Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is a key person for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Northeast and is above party chief Amit Shah for the affairs related to the region, its general secretary Ram Madhav said on Sunday.
 
Madhav made the statement when asked why Sarma cannot contest despite being responsible for 25 seats, while Shah is the party in-charge of the entire country and still contesting from Gandhinagar.
"That means Himant Biswa Sarma's burden is much more than Amit Shah's, probably. Because he has to handle 5-6 governments here. He has to handle the entire election campaign in the Northeast," he said at a press conference in Guwahati.
"That needs a lot of energy and time, so the party cannot confine him to one seat. We needed his time and energy for the larger campaign for all candidates in the Northeast," he said.
Putting to rest all speculation, Shah on Thursday night said that Sarma will not be offered a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections.
     
Despite the state unit sending his name unanimously, Sarma was asked to concentrate on developing the state and strengthening the party's base in the Northeast, Shah said in a series of tweets in Hindi.
     
Sarma also took to Twitter to say that he accepted the decision "humbly" and the region will not disappoint Shah in making Narendra Modi Prime Minister again.
     
Earlier, Sarma himself had said on a number of occasions that he will not contest the assembly elections in the state in 2021, indicating he was looking for a national role.
     
BJP sources said he was named as the candidate for the prestigious Tezpur constituency in Assam while preparing the state unit's panel of names for the elections.
This, however, did not go down well with BJP's central election committee comprising Modi and Shah, as the party's sitting Tezpur MP Ram Prasad Sarmah resigned from primary membership immediately after learning about the omission of his name.
The central leadership did not accept Sarmah's resignation and asked the state unit to reconsider the panel of candidates, which did not include the parliamentarian from Tezpur constituency.
     
Later, Sarma's close aide and Assam Tea Tribes Welfare Minister Pallab Lochan Das was given ticket from the Tezpur seat. -- PTI
08:21   No proof of Trump-Russia collusion: Barr
United States Attorney General William Barr has said Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not find proof that Donald Trump or his campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections, following which the US president claimed "complete and total exoneration".
In his four-page letter to the Congress on Sunday, which was later made public, Brar however said that "while this (Mueller's) report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him" and sets out evidence on "both sides of the question".
The investigation had cast a shadow over the Trump presidency for nearly two years with the Democratic leadership alleging that Russian interference helped him in the 2016 polls.
Barr said that Mueller found no proof of such a conspiracy "despite multiple offers from Russia-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign".
"The special counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election," the attorney general said.
Mueller, in his report, "did not draw a conclusion - one way or the other - as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction", Barr told the lawmakers.
"For each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the special counsel views as 'difficult issues' of law and fact concerning whether the president's actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction," Barr said, adding Mueller "ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment".
In the letter, he also said the Department of Justice has determined that there is not sufficient evidence to establish that Trump committed obstruction of justice.

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