23:40 Can't allow violence: EC on WB campaign ban :
The Election Commission took a "judicious" decision to ban campaigning in West Bengal from Thursday night and not morning as it was against abruptly taking away the right of political parties to seek votes but at the same time wanted violence to end ahead of May 19 polls, sources have said.
The commission has been under attack from political parties for not curtailing campaigning in nine Lok Sabha seats in the state from Thursday morning.
The opposition alleged that it was done to accommodate rallies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the state.
The campaigning in West Bengal ended at 10.00 PM Thursday. It was otherwise to end on Friday evening at 6.00 PM.
"We have a list. There were over 15 political rallies/ roadshows today by various parties and leaders. We could not have abruptly banned it. The idea was not to show our muscle. The idea was also not to muzzle the campaigning. The basic idea was to show that EC has its own ways to contain situations," a functionary explained.
He said a senior leader of a political party has been given the list of rallies in West Bengal on Thursday to drive home the point.
Meanwhile, sources denied reports that EC's special observers had recommended an "immediate ban" on campaigning in West Bengal. "It is factually incorrect. Their job is to give ground report. How would they know EC was contemplating ban using its constitutional powers," a functionary said.
The EC's action on Wednesday came a day after parts of Kolkata witnessed widespread violence during BJP president Amit Shah's massive road show in the city. A bust of 19th century Bengali icon Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar was also vandalised during the violence. -- PTI
23:20 Amazon faces flak for products with Hindu god images :
Thousands of netizens Thursday called for boycott of Amazon after rugs and toilet seat covers with pictures of Hindu gods were available for sale on the online retailer's US website.
Over 24,000 tweets -- with some tagging External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj -- were sent out with #BoycottAmazon, making it one of the top trending topics on Twitter.
When contacted, an Amazon spokesperson said all sellers must follow the company's selling guidelines and those who do not comply will be subject to action, including potential removal of their account.
"The products in question are being removed from our store," the spokesperson added.
In 2017, Swaraj had received several complaints of Amazon selling flip-flops with Mahatma Gandhi's image.
There were also reports of Amazon Canada selling on its platform doormats depicting Indian flag.
The company, at that time, told sternly that they should respect Indian sensitivities and sentiments. -- PTI
22:29 'Respect Gandhi': Pragya regrets Godse remark:
Under fire for her "Nathuram-Godse-is-a-patriot" remark, BJP's Bhopal Lok Sabha seat candidate Pragya Singh Thakur tendered an apology on Thursday night and said she respected Mahatma Gandhi as his work for the country cannot be forgotten.
"My sentiment was not to hurt anyone's feelings. If it has hurt anybody's feelings then I apologise. What Gandhi ji has done for the country cannot be forgotten. I respect him a lot," she said in a video statement.
She said she made the comments on the spur of moment to a question linked to "saffron terror" and claimed that the media twisted them.
Asked about the BJP terming her remarks as her personal views, she agreed and added that she was a disciplined worker of the party.
She said her party's line is her line.
Earlier in the day, Thakur had ignited a political storm by claiming that the Gandhi's assassin was a patriot and will remain one.
The BJP condemned her statement and asked her to tender a public apology. -- PTI
22:01 Court takes cognisance of complaint against Kamal Haasan :
A Delhi court Thursday took cognisance of a complaint against actor-politician Kamal Haasan for allegedly hurting religious sentiments by terming Nathuram Godse, who killed Mahatma Gandhi, a "Hindu extremist".
Metropolitan Magistrate Sumeet Anand posted the matter for August 2 when the statement of complainant Vishnu Gupta will be recorded.
The complainant has sought Haasan's prosecution for alleged offences punishable under Indian Penal Code sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, language etc) and 295-A (outrage religious feelings by insulting religion etc).
The offences are punishable with three-year imprisonment or fine, or both. -- PTI
21:31 Pragya's Godse remarks under EC lens:
The Election Commission Thursday took cognisance of Bharatiya Janata Party's Bhopal candidate and Malegaon blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur's remarks describing Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse a "patriot".
The poll body has sought a "factual report" from chief electoral officer of Madhya Pradesh by Friday on her statement, official sources said here.
Thakur later apologised for it and withdrew the statement.
Talking to a news channel in Agar Malwa in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday afternoon, Thakur said, "Nathuram Godse was a 'deshbhakt' (patriot), he is and will remain a 'deshbhakt'. Those calling him a terrorist should instead look at themselves. They will be given a befitting reply in this election."
She said this in response to a question over actor-turned politician Kamal Haasan's remark that "free India's first extremist was a Hindu", a reference to Godse.
Earlier this month, the EC had barred Thakur from campaigning for three days for violating the Model Code of Conduct by stirring up communal feelings.
The poll watchdog had said in its order that the decision came in light of her comments against slain IPS officer Hemant Karkare and on the demolition of the Babri Masjid. -- PTI
21:16 Azad equates Modi with Mohammad Bin Tughlaq:
Congress leader Gulam Nabi Azad on Thursday likened Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decisions to that of the controversial 14 century Delhi ruler Mohammad Bin Tughlaq.
Criticising the 2016 demonetisation move, the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha alleged that Modi gave many 'Tughlaqi farman' (diktats) during his rule due to which common people suffered.
"Modi changed the currency notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 with new currency notes as Tughlaq had done by issuing currency of brass and copper during his rule," Azad told reporters.
Tughlaq, who ruled the Delhi Sultanate for a short period of time in the 14th century, was known for his controversial decisions like shifting the capital of the Sultanate from Delhi to Daulatabad and introducing non-precious metal currency.
"Modi withdrew Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes during demonetisation claiming that it will check black money but later he circulated Rs 2,000 currency notes, which was contradictory in itself," Azad said.
The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister alleged that Modi took the decision of demonetisation "without getting the consent of the RBI governor and the cabinet".
Azad claimed that demonetisation and wrongly implemented Goods and Services Tax (GST) had adversely affected the economy especially small and medium scale industries due to which over 4.5 crore people became jobless.
Talking about Pradhanmantri Fasal Beema Yojna, he claimed that the insurance companies were benefited "to the tune of Rs 3000 crores from this scheme implemented by Modi government, while only 45 per cent farmers were covered under this scheme".
"I asked in Parliament if this scheme has been implemented for the benefit of farmers or for insurance companies, but Modi did not give any reply," he said.
Asked if it is appropriate to equate a democratically elected prime minister with Tughlaq, Azad replied, I have not equated Modi with Tughlaq. I just said Modi is like Tughlaq." -- PTI
21:14 PM lambasts Mamata over her comments against EC:
Barely hours before the EC-curtailed campaigning ended in West Bengal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday tore into TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee's criticism of the poll body saying had it not ensured free and fair polls she would have never been able to oust the Left and be the chief minister.
Modi also criticised Banerjee for her comments labelling BJP leaders in the state as "outsiders" and said Bengal is a part of the country and not her personal fiefdom.
Bringing down the curtains on BJP's high voltage campaigning in the state, he said the recent statements by opposition leaders giving up their claim for prime ministership is a reflection that they had already accepted defeat.
"Didi is abusing the EC and central forces today. But there was a time when during the Left rule, she used to demand central forces. Had the EC and the central forces not conducted free and fair polls, she would have never been the chief minister of Bengal," Modi said at a poll rally at Dum Dum.
Hitting out at Banerjee for labelling the BJP leaders in the state as "outsiders", Modi said she has problems with people coming from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar but "welcomes infiltrators with open arms".
"Didi should not forget that if people have come from Bihar and UP then they are contributing towards Bengal's growth. She has problems with their coming but she welcomes infiltrators. Bengal is not the personal fiefdom of Didi and her nephew (TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee)," Modi said.
Mocking Banerjee's reported aspiration of becoming the next prime minister, he said she may very well "dream" of it but should not make any comment which affects the morale of the armed forces. PTI
20:29 Military is being used to win political debates: Lt Gen Hooda:
Lt Gen (retd) D S Hooda, the main architect of the 2016 surgical strikes on terror launch pads in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, on Thursday said it is "worrisome" that the military is increasingly being drawn into the political discourse and used to win political arguments.
The Indian Army's former Northern Command chief also said the talk around politicisation of the military "is sort of exaggerated".
" ...the military (is) being increasingly drawn into the political discourse, it's being used to win political arguments, it's being used as something which generates success in the elections. And that frankly is worrisome," Hooda said at an event -- "Dialogue on National Security", in Chandigarh.
"For example, you saw the recent debate over 'my cross border strikes versus your surgical strikes'. What ultimately happened, a document was pulled out in reply to a RTI reply... to say that look this is what the Army headquarters is saying, that's where, I think, the worry is when too much political debate starts over military," he said.
"Then you could see military being increasingly drawn in and ultimately in the long run, everybody understands it that it is going to impact your impartiality, it is going to impact your apolitical character," he added.
Responding to an RTI application filed by PTI, the Directorate General of Military Operations said last year that the Army did not have any records of any "surgical strike" conducted before September 29, 2016 -- the day when the raid was carried out in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
"So, I think, if all political parties can just leave the military out of the political discourse, that would be the best. Whether it is going to happen, I don't know because people have also tasted success using name of the military for electoral victory," Hooda said.
Replying to a question about "politicisation of the armed forces", Hooda said, "There is a lot of talk around politicisation of the Army, politicisation of the military, to me, some of it is sort of exaggerated. What exactly does politicisation mean? It means that men and women in uniform are taking a partisan political viewpoint and I don't see that to such an extent that you should start getting worried."
Lt Gen (retd) Praveen Bakshi, who was also present at the event, said politicisation of the armed forces was his "biggest fear".
"Politicisation of the armed forces is when the government in power can make the armed forces do its bidding, not in the national interest but for personal interest, that could be politicisation," said Bakshi, who headed the Army's Eastern Command during the Doklam standoff.
19:56 Will set up JPC to probe DeMo 'scam': Manish Tewari:
A Joint Parliamentary Committee will be set up to probe demonetisation if the Congress is voted to power at the Centre, former Union minister and Congress candidate from the Anandpur Sahib seat Manish Tewari said Thursday.
Demonetisation was a "scam" that ran into hundreds and thousands of crores and responsibilities needed to be fixed for it, Tewari said here. The Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha constituency in Punjab goes to polls on May 19 in the last leg of the seven-phase parliamentary elections.
"Demonetisation was not only a huge financial scam, it was like brutal murder of the economy and responsibility needs to be fixed for it and those guilty brought to book," he said.
"The Congress party's government at the Centre will set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the demonetisation scam," Tewari said.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, in his poll rallies, have been targeting the Modi government over demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax, claiming that these two decisions "destroyed" the economy.
Tewari further dubbed the decision of demonetisation as "arbitrary and dictatorial" that hit every section of the society.
He said the move "destroyed" the livelihood of hundreds and thousands of people across the country, and as such, it needed to be probed.
The former Union minister said currency notes worth about Rs 16 lakh crore were demonetised on the evening of November 8, 2016 by the Modi government and there was a need to find out whether the same amount of currency was printed subsequently.
Tewari is pitted against sitting MP and SAD candidate Prem Singh Chandumajra, AAP nominee Narinder Singh Shergill and BSP's Sodhi Vikram Singh. -- PTI
19:23 'Modilie' a new word that has become popular worldwide: Rahul:
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday fired a fresh salvo at Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing him of speaking lies, and mentioned about a website that he claimed "catalogues the best 'Modilies'".
Gandhi said "Modilies" is a new word that has become popular worldwide.
"Now there's even a website that catalogues the best Modilies!" the Congress president tweeted, along with a link to the website "Modi Lies: The Most Accurate List of PM Modi's Many Lies".
Gandhi has been accusing Modi of speaking "lies" on various issues, including on the Rafale jet deal.
On Wednesday, he had said "Modilie" is a new word in dictionary and tweeted a screenshot of a photoshopped page of an English dictionary explaining the meaning of the word.
In the fabricated page, "Modilie" was described as a "mass noun".
The photoshopped page listed three meanings and examples of the usage of the word. -- PTI
19:06 On May 23 it will be bye-bye for Modi: Rahul:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has carefully avoided speaking on the issue of corruption during campaign, but we have not allowed him to escape, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said Thursday, claiming it will be "bye-bye" for him on May 23.
Addressing a rally in the Pataliputra Lok Sabha segment, from where Misa Bharti daughter of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad is in the fray, Gandhi attacked Modi for skirting questions on promises he had made like Rs 15 lakh in bank accounts of all poor and creation of two crore jobs.
Asserting that the ruling BJP was headed for a defeat in the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress chief claimed Modi would get a befitting reply from the people angry over his failure to fulfil promises made five years ago when votes in the current elections are counted on May 23.
In a veiled attack on the interviews given by the prime minister, including the one to the Bollywood star Akshay Kumar, Gandhi said questions and answers are choreographed to skirt the issue of his promises. All that we hear from Modi ji these days are inanities like how he eats a mango and why he wears half-sleeved kurtas.
Repeating the slogan of 'chowkidar chor hai' which has rankled the BJP, Gandhi said," Modi must answer the questions we have been raising with regard to the Rafale deal. Why he got the contract awarded to Anil Ambani, why he agreed to pay much more for the fighter aircraft than had been earlier agreed to and why Rafale would not be manufactured in India. He owes an answer to the nation on these counts."
"Modi has travelled the entire country for his campaign, addressing rallies with the help of tele-prompters. He has carefully avoided speaking on the issue of corruption. But we have not allowed him to escape. My challenge to him for an open debate on corruption still stands. He has been badly exposed and, on May 23, it will be a bye-bye for him," Gandhi said. -- PTI
18:29 Unsatisfactory response from EC: Cong:
In Delhi, an Opposition delegation met with the EC over ending election campaign in West Bengal 24 hours early. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Congress says, "We did not receive a satisfactory response from the Election Commission."
18:14 Didi frustrated over imminent defeat: Modi:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday asserted that the West Bengal police, in connivance with the state government, was trying to wipe out evidence of statue desecration in Kolkata. Addressing a rally in Mathurapur, Modi said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was, "frustrated over her imminent defeat", and has threatened to put him behind bars after the general election.
"It was the TMC goons who were involved in vandalism. They were the ones to desecrate the bust of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. The police officers are trying to wipe out evidence of the incident to protect the TMC goons. The TMC and their goons have made Bengal a hell," he claimed
Those involved in the act of vandalizing the statue should be given exemplary punishment, he insisted.
"Didi has resorted to threats. Today in the morning I received the threat of being sent to jail. Yesterday I saw in media that Didi had threatened to take over BJP's office, she is also threatening to take over homes of BJP workers.
"There is a problem here regarding Durga puja and Saraswati puja, saying Jai Sri Ram has become a crime. People of Bengal were troubled by these things since a few years, who brought these issues on a national platform?Which party has become voice of Bengal today, it's BJP."
Kolkata witnessed widespread violence on Tuesday during BJP president Amit Shah's massive road show. A bust of 19th century Bengali reformer and polymath Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was desecrated during the clashes.
"Didi has lost her cool in the face of imminent defeat. She has become so frustrated that she is threatening me that she will put me behind bars," he said. Taking a dig at Banerjee's nephew and TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee, Modi also said that the "aunt-nephew jodi is only interested in looting Bengal". PTI
18:09 Pragya Singh Thakur not lunatic fringe: Owaisi:
AIMIM's Asaduddin Owaisi reacts to BJP's Bhopal candidate Pragya Singh Thakur saying Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse was a deshbhakt. "Remember, @narendramodi has defended & endorsed Pragya's candidature This is not a 'lunatic fringe' & is definitely not her "personal opinion', it is the BJP standing by Independent India's first terrorist. In few years, Sri Sri Godse will also be recommended with a Bharat Ratna."
17:59 Mamata begins long march, campaign ban at 10 pm:
You may disagree with her politics and polity, but it's no mean feat to walk over 8 km in the searing, energy-sapping heat of Kolkata. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee is on a padyatra from Thakur Pukur to Taratala, a distance of roughly 8.2 km. She had to rejig her rallies after the EC cut short campaigning in Bengal by a day. The 'silence period' begins at 10 pm today.
Responding to reports that the Special Protection Group (SPG) had written a letter to West Bengal DGP over security concerns at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rally, Mamata Banerjee responded, "They (EC) curtailed our campaign 24 hours ago and now we have to adjust our meetings," she added.
The SPG had reportedly alleged that Banerjee was planning a "rally ambush", raising the possibility of clashes between TMC and BJP workers at the Mathurapur rally.
While Modi addressed a rally in Mathurapur and another one in Dum Dum, Banerjee held a public meeting in Mathurapur, which was almost close to the Prime Minister's rally venue.
17:41 Maha ATS gets a new chief :
Additional Director General of Police, Deven Bharati (right) takes charge as the chief of Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad.
17:34 Mamata rejects PM's Vidyasagar statue offer:
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday rejected Prime Minister Narendra Modi's offer to install a new bust of social reformer Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar at the same spot where it was vandalised saying that Bengal has the money for
She said that it were BJP "hooligans" who had destroyed a heritage of the state by breaking the bust in the the violence during BJP Amit Shah's roadshow.
It is a matter of shame for Bengalis that the bust of Vidyasagar was vandalised, she said at a poll rally at Mandirbazar in support of Trinamool Lok Sabha candidate C M Jatua.
"Bengal does not seek alms from BJP. We have the money for a new bust of Vidyasagar, who was part of Bengal Renaissance. Don't you (BJP) feel ashamed saying that Bengal has been reduced to a state of being a pauper," she said.
Banerjee was referring to a comment by Shah at a poll rally at Canning earlier this week in which he had said that under Banerjee government "sonar(golden) Bangla has become kangal(pauper) Bangla".
The prime minister said at a poll rally at Mau in Uttar Pradesh that his government is committed towards Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar's vision and promised to install his grand statue made of "panch dhatu" (five metals) at the same spot where it was vandalised by "TMC goondas".
Hitting back, the fiesty TMC supremo called Modi is a liar, the "like of which was never seen in the country".
"He (Modi) should squat holding his ears for destroying a heritage of the state," she said.
17:14 SC to hear plea of Muslim woman against talaq notices:
The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a Muslim woman's plea challenging the two Talaq notices given by her husband and sought direction for registration of FIR against him.
A bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and Sanjiv Khanna said it will hear the plea on Friday.
Advocate M M Kashyap, appearing for the woman, said that her husband after nine years of marriage has given her two notices for Talaq in March and May.
He said the woman got married on February 22, 2009 as per Muslim rites and customs and has two children of nine years (boy) and six years (girl).
The bench asked the counsel as to why he did not move the high court for the relief.
To this, the counsel said that apex court had on August 17, 2017, held the practice of triple talaq among Muslims as unconstitutional and the notices given by the husband were violative of that order.
The woman, a Delhi resident in her plea has said that her husband and in-laws started harassing and assaulting her after the marriage for want of additional dowry and a car.
She said that first notice for talaq was sent to her on March 25 and the second notice was sent to her on May 7, by her husband.
The woman said that the The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Ordinance, 2019, which was promulgated in January 12 is also in her favour.
She sought direction from the court to the authorities for registration of FIR against her husband. -- PTI
16:30 SP-BSP already at each other's throats: PM in UP:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, who are in alliance in Uttar Pradesh, are "grabbing each other's collars" as they are aware of their defeat in the ongoing polls.
Addressing a rally in Mirzapur, UP, Modi, citing a recent scuffle between the SP and BSP workers, said, "SP-BSP leaders make deals in the comfort of their AC rooms in Lucknow and this is the reason why they have lost touch with the ground reality. Now that the parties know that they are going to lose the elections, their party workers are pulling each other's collars."
Continuing his tirade against SP and BSP, the Prime Minister said the parties have increased their "daily dosage" of hurling abuses against him.
"Even if they spew poison at me, the public knows that these people (Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati) are corrupt. They sit on a pile of money and call themselves 'Samajwadi'. They have looted the state turn by turn," he added.The Prime Minister also accused the alliance of pushing the state in the direction of naxalism. -- ANI
15:51 Omar Abdullah @OmarAbdullah If the killer of the father of the nation is a patriot does that make Mahatma Gandhi anti-national?
15:51 BJP asks Pragya to apologise for Godse deshbhakt statement :
GVL Narasimha Rao, BJP on Pragya Singh Thakur's statement "Nathuram Godse was, is and will remain a 'deshbhakt": "BJP does not agree with this statement, we condemn it. Party will ask her for clarification, she should apologise publicly for this statement."
15:45 Pragya Singh's latest: 'Godse is a patriot':
The Bharatiya Janata Party's Pragya Singh Thakur on Thursday stoked yet another controversy by terming Nathuram Godse, the man who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, as a 'deshbhakt
"Nathuram Godse was a 'deshbhakt', is a 'deshbhakt' and will remain a 'deshbhakt'," Pragya said when questioned about actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan's remark that India's first terrorist was a Hindu, referring to Godse.
The BJP candidate from Bhopal Lok Sabha seat claimed that comments like these by Haasan will dent his electoral prospects.
"People calling him a terrorist should instead look within, such people will be given a befitting reply in these elections," she said.
Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the Malegaon blast case, is not new to controversial remarks.
After being fielded by the BJP in Lok Sabha polls she had said Hemant Karkare, who was killed in action during the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, died because she had cursed him. Karkare, former chief of Mumbai's Anti-Terrorism Squad, was probing the Malegaon case. The comments not only earned Pragya criticism from all corners but also got her a notice from the Election Commission forcing her to withdraw her statement.
She was barred from campaigning for three days by the poll body for her comments about Babri Masjid demolition. "I will go to make the Ram temple. I have said it before and I am not denying it that I had gone there. I have demolished the Babri structure. He is my Ramji and no one can stop me from making a grand Ram temple. The nation is Ram, Ram is a nation," the newly-minted politician had said. An FIR was also filed against her for these remarks.
Thakur is contesting against Congress leader Digvijaya Singh from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh.
14:44 BJP calls Mamata 'fascist, murderer of democracy':
With the TMC and BJP at loggerheads over violence in Kolkata, new accusations are being made by both sides. The BJP on Thursday not only termed Mamata Banerjee the "biggest fascist and murderer of democracy" but also said that Election Commission should have banned her from campaigning.
"She is the biggest fascist and is responsible for all the violence in West Bengal that has happened in this election. The ECI has not taken effective measures so far despite our repeated requests and complaints. Mamata Banerjee's campaign should have been banned basis the statement 'I will take revenge for each one of you who is not supporting the TMC'. What can be a greater threat for democracy than an elected Chief Minister threatening the public like this?" BJP Spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao told ANI.
The two parties are sparring over violence which took place in Kolkata during BJP president Amit Shah's roadshow on Tuesday. The statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was also vandalised -- with the TMC and the BJP trading blame over the matter. -- ANI
Image: Mamata Banerjee garlands a portrait of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar at a public meeting at Agarpara near Kolkata yesterday.
14:24 TMC goons should be taken into preventive custody ahead of polls: Javadekar:
Union Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday said TMC "goons" who are disturbing the political fabric of West Bengal should be taken into preventive custody a day prior to elections in order to ensure that violence-free polling takes place in the state.
"In order to conduct a violence-free and fair election in West Bengal, we have requested the Election Commission of India to take those TMC goons and miscreants into preventive custody a day prior to the election. On election day, we have videos in which these goons are seen going and pressing the button forcefully even in front of police officials," he said after meeting the Election Commission.
Earlier today, a BJP delegation led by Javadekar visited the EC to demand strict action against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah 'goons'.
14:13 Sachin launches BMW X5, the new SAV:
The all-new BMW X5 was launched today in Mumbai by cricketing great Sachin Tendulkar.
Dubbed a Sports Activity Vehicle by the company, the BMW X5 comes in 3 variants.
The BMW X5 xdrive30d Sport comes with a price tag of Rs 72,90,000; the BMW X5 xdrive30 d xLine costs Rs 82,40,000; and the BMW X5 xdrive40i M Sport, also costs Rs 82,40,000.
Photograph: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com
13:58 'Liar' Modi should be made to do sit-ups: Mamata :
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addresses a rally in Mathurapur, West Bengal where rained fire and brimstone at PM Narendra Modi and Amit Shah and the BJP.
Slamming Modi for saying the TMC was responsible for the desecration of Vidyasagar's bust on May 14, Mamata said he was a liar and should be made to do sit-ups.
She also threw in the colourful descriptive 'shaitan' while referring to Amit
Shah and Modi.
She said Bengalis will not vote for the BJP. "Those who are supporting the BJP just for money won't be accepted by people."
She said she was not afraid of anyone. "They do not know I am unstoppable."
She said the BJP and the EC were in cahoots. "We got to know that BJP complained to the Election Commission. EC is a brother of BJP, it has been sold to the hands of the BJP. And I am ready to go to jail for this. But I have and will continue to tell the truth, that is my policy," Mamata said.
She said the BJP was attacking Bengali culture and hurting Bengali sentiments and destroying India.
The Lok Sabha seat of Mathurapur in South 24 Parganas is held by the TMC.
12:59 PM to visit Kedarnath ahead of last day of polls:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit the Kedarnath temple on May 18, a day ahead of the seventh and final phase of the Lok Sabhja elections.
Uttrakhand State Disaster Relief Force (SDRF) has set up wireless and telecommunication systems and extra security has been deployed to make the"Char Dham Yatra" a success.
Tripti Bhatt, Commandant SDRF has directed all officials in the Kedarnath valley to maintain vigil in view of the Prime Minister's Visit to the temple. -- ANI
Image: PM Modi's 2017 visit to Kedarnath temple
12:45 Soldier killed, three terrorists shot dead in encounter in J-K's Pulwama:
Three terrorists, a civilian and a soldier were killed Thursday in an encounter in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir, army said. Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Delipora village of Pulwama following information about presence of terrorists there, a police official said.
He said the hiding ultras opened firing on the search party, who retaliated, triggering off a gun battle.
An army official said three militants were killed in the gun battle while one jawan also lost his life in the operation, which was going on till last reports came in.
The identity and group affiliation of the slain terrorists was being ascertained. A police officer said two brothers were also injured during the exchange of firing between the two sides.
One of them -- identified as Rayees Ahmad -- succumbed while his brother Mohammad Younus was taken to a hospital, the officer said. Meanwhile, authorities have snapped internet services in the district as a precautionary measure. -- PTI
Image: Army jawan sepoy Sandeep lost his life in the encounter
11:47 Derek O'Brien calls Modi 'pathological liar':
Derek O'Brien reacts to the PM's assertion that the TMC had vandalised Vidyasagar's bust. The TMC MP and spokesperson tweets: @derekobrienmp "Modi. You pathological liar. #LowLife"
11:42 TMC vandalised Vidyasagar statue: PM:
PM Narendra Modi in Mau, Uttar Pradesh, has squarely placed the blame on the desecration of Vidyasagar's bust in Kolkata during Amit Shah's rally on the ruling Trinamool Congress party.
"We saw hooliganism by TMC workers again during Bhai Amit Shah's roadshow in Kolkata. They vandalized Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar's statue. We are committed to Vidyasagar's vision and will install his grand statue at the same spot," Modi said.
The PM also accused the TMC of hooliganism during his rally in Mednipur, Bengal. "Some months back during my rally in West Medinipur, TMC goons indulged in hooliganism. After this in Thakurnagar the situation was such that I had to cut short my speech and was forced to leave the stage."
On Mamata's statement that the BJP had called in workers from outside West Bengal, Modi said, "I had thought the way Mamata didi is targeting UP-Bihar Purvanchal people, calling them outsiders for her politics, Behen Mayawati will surely slam Mamata didi, but this did not happen."
In fact, the BSP chief has come on record and accused the Election Commission of India of acting under pressure from the Central government, a day after the poll body cut short the campaign period in West Bengal by a day.
Questioning the timing of the campaign ban, Mayawati claimed the EC was being accommodative of the Prime Minister's rallies in the state.
11:28 Rahul promises justice to Alwar rape victim:
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi today reassured the Alwar gang-rape survivor and her family that they would receive justice. The Congress government in the state and the police force have come under fire from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati for allegedly suppressing news of the attack.
Speaking to the media at Alwar, Rahul Gandhi said, "The family talked about nyay (justice). Justice will be done. Action will be taken against perpetrator".
He said as soon as he heard about the incident (Alwar gang rape) he spoke to CM Ashok Gehlot. "This is not a political issue for me. I met the victim's family and they have sought justice which will be done," Gandhi said.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who was also at the press conference, said, "We will ensure maximum punishment to the accused".
11:23 US declines to join Ardern's 'Christchurch Call' to curb online extremism:
The United States has declined to join a New-Zealand-led initiative aimed at encouraging tech companies and countries to curb extremism online.
Named after the New Zealand city where a deadly terrorist attack took place on May 15, the non-binding agreement 'Christchurch Call' has been signed by 18 leaders from around the globe, including British PM Theresa May and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, reported The Washington Post.
"While the United States is not currently in a position to join the endorsement, we continue to support the overall goals reflected in the call. We will continue to engage governments, industry and civil society to counter terrorist content on the internet," White House said in a statement.
The statement cited freedom of expression and freedom of the press as reasons to not join the agreement. -- ANI
11:04 Rajnath speaks to Assam CM over Guwahati blasts:
Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday spoke to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal regarding the blasts in Guwahati on Wednesday evening that left as many as 12 people injured.
"HM Shri Rajnath Singh spoke to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal regarding the blast in Guwahati. The Chief Minister apprised him of the situation. The police and other agencies are investigating the incident. The HM prays for the speedy recovery of the injured," the office of the Home Minister of India tweeted.
The explosion had occurred outside a mall on Zoo Road in Guwahati.
Two unknown bike-borne suspects had lobbed a grenade on state police troops and fled the spot.Soon after the blasts, the area was cordoned off for police investigation. -- ANI
Times of India cartoonist Sandeep Adhwaryu on the desecration of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar's bust in Kolkata on Tuesday.
10:51 MP: Teacher who got student slapped 168 times arrested:
A government school teacher in Madhya Pradesh's Jhabua district has been arrested and remanded in 14-day judicial custody by a court in Jhabua for allegedly directing some students to slap their classmate 168 times for not completing her homework.
Thandla tehsil's Judicial Magistrate First Class Jai Patidar on Monday turned down the bail plea of Manoj Verma, 35, additional district prosecution officer Ravi Prakash Rai said.
Verma allegedly directed students to slap the girl, then studying in Class 6 at Jawahar Navodaya School in Thandla town, in January last year, he said. According to the victim's father Shiv Pratap Singh, his daughter did not go to school from January 1 to 10, 2018 as she was unwell.
On January 11, when the girl went to school without completing her homework, Verma told her classmates to slap her as a form of punishment following which 14 girls slapped her two times every day for six days. Singh lodged a complaint with the school management which constituted a committee to probe the incident. The panel found the teacher guilty and suspended him, the prosecutor said. -- PTI
10:36 Hua toh hua' posters greet Priyanka in Punjab:
Agitated over Indian Overseas Congress chief Sam Pitroda's remark on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, a section of the Sikh community as a sign of protest showed posters reading 'hua toh hua' during Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's roadshow in Pathankot.
Pitroda, while commenting on 1984 anti-Sikh riots last week told ANI, "It happened in 1984, so what? (1984 hua toh hua)."
Priyanka was accompanied by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Punjab Congress chief Sunil Kumar Jakhar in the roadshow.
Hitting out at Priyanka, Union Cabinet Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal tweeted, "Instead of apologising for party & family role in #1984SikhGenocide & attack on Sri Harmandar Sahib, #PriyankaGandhi chose to speak abt sachai ki rajneeti of @RahulGandhi. Strange sachai which allows Cong to justify '84 with "hua to hua" & forbids regret for mass killing of Sikhs."
Punjab, where 13 parliamentary constituencies are at stake will go to polls on May 19 in the last phase of Lok Sabha elections. -- ANI
10:14 A website dedicated to Modi's 'lies':
With just one phase left for polls, a final weapon from the anti-BJP armory -- a website dedicated to the 'lies' of Narendra Modi from 2014 to the present.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweets: "'Modilie' is a new word that's become popular worldwide. Now there's even a website that catalogues the best Modilies!"
10:06 Slum kid from Mumbai wins big at New York film fest :
Remember the cute little boy who played the young Saroo in the 2016 film, Lion? Sunny Pawar is all of 11 now and has just won the Best Child Actor award at the 19th New York Indian Film Festival 2019 for the film 'Chippa'. A resident of Kunchi Kurve Nagar's slum area near Kalina, Mumbai, he first shot to fame for Australian Director Garth Davis' 2016 film 'Lion'.
Speaking to ANI, Sunny said, "I am very happy. This is all due to my parents. I want to be a big actor like Rajinikanth and want to make my parents proud. I want to work in both Bollywood and Hollywood."
09:38 Sidhu's wife blames Amarinder for ticket denial:
Congress leader Navjot Kaur Sidhu hit out at Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and alleged that it was because of him and party general secretary in-charge for state Asha Kumari, that she was denied a ticket from Amritsar in the ongoing national elections.
"Captain Sahib (Amarinder Singh) and Asha Kumari think Madam Sidhu does not deserve an MP ticket. I was denied the ticket from Amritsar on the ground that I could not win," Navjot Kaur told ANI.
"Captain Sahib should respect women. You talk of women reservation, then please consider it. When educated leaders like me, who are ready to serve are there, it is decent to tell us that someone is better, don't deny us tickets by lying," she said.
Navjot Kaur wanted to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Chandigarh, but the leader was denied a ticket from the constituency.
Congress fielded former Union Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal from the seat.Following this there were reports that Navjot Kaur might contest from Amritsar, the coveted seat from where Amarinder Singh had won against Bharatiya Janata Party's Arun Jaitley in the 2014 general elections.
However, the party fielded sitting lawmaker Gurjit Singh Aujla from there.
When questioned about Navjot Singh Sidhu's absence from Congress' campaign in Punjab, she said, "Captain Sahib has said that we are winning all 13 Lok Sabha seats. Our aim is to oust Modi. When Captain Sahib is saying that we are winning all seats then Sidhu's campaign does not matter here.
"He is campaigning at all India level. There is no ego there. Captain sa'ab has said he would win all 13 seats by himself."
The differences between Sidhu and Amarinder came to the fore when the chief minister had asked him not to go to Pakistan for Imran Khan's oath-taking ceremony.
The chief minister also got the invitation but preferred not to go there citing terror attacks in Punjab and killings of Indian soldiers by Pakistan armed forces.
Relations grew bitter when the Punjab chief minister had issued a mild rebuke to Sidhu last year over his hug to Pakistan army chief General Bajwa which snowballed into a huge political controversy.
Following which, Sidhu in retaliation took a dig at Amarinder saying that Congress president Rahul Gandhi is his captain and that he went to Pakistan after taking his Rahul in Confidence.
Punjab, where 13 parliamentary seats are at stake will go to polls on May 19. -- ANI
09:16 US blacklists Huawei, places it on entity list:
Escalating the trade war with China, United States President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday banning American telecom companies from installing foreign-made equipment that could pose a threat to national security.
Soon after the executive order -- 'Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain' -- was signed, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the Department of Commerce announced that it will be adding Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd and its affiliates to its Entity List.
The Department of Commerce alleged that Huawei is engaged in activities that are contrary to US national security or foreign policy interest.
As a result, sale or transfer of American technology to a company or person on the Entity List requires a license issued by the BIS, and a license may be denied if the sale or transfer would harm US national security or foreign policy interests.
The listing will be effective when published in the Federal Register. -- PTI
08:30 2 terrorists, jawan killed in Pulwama encounter:
Two terrorists have been killed, while one jawan has lost his life in an encounter between terrorists and security forces in Dalipora area of Pulwama on Thursday morning.
An exchange of fire began in the morning, terrorists were holed-up in a house in Dalipora area.
The operation is still on. -- ANI
00:12 Biden would be a great running mate: Harris:
Addressing rumours that she would become a vice president to the eventual Democratic nominee for president, Senator Kamala Harris told reporters that Joe Biden would make a "great running mate" to her once she becomes the Democratic nominee.
Harris had been asked what she thought about rumours of her becoming a vice presidential candidate.
"I think that Joe Biden would be a great running mate," Harris said, swiping at Biden. "As vice president he's proven he knows how to do the job."
Joe Biden served as US vice president to Barack Obama for two terms. He had dropped out of the presidential race in 2008 after winning less than 1per cent in the Iowa caucuses and was picked as Obama's vice president to bring experience to the Democratic ticket.
The prospect of Harris as a vice presidential nominee has been the subject of some speculation, given Biden's current lead in fundraising and polling and the diversity that Harris could bring to the ticket as a woman of colour.