Mon, 05 December 2022
RSS, BJP will have to say Jai Siyaram: Rahul

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23:24   RSS, BJP will have to say Jai Siyaram: Rahul
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday accused the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh of ignoring the invocations of 'Hey Ram' and 'Jai Siyaram', which acknowledges both Lord Ram and Goddess Sita.
Gandhi was addressing a corner meeting organised on the arrival of his Bharat Jodo Yatra at Nahardi in Jhalawar district. He later proceeded for the night halt at the Khel Sankul here.
"The people of the BJP and RSS, learn to live your lives by the ideals of Lord Ram. And listen carefully, you will have to say 'Hey Ram' and 'Jai Siyaram'," he said 
He said earlier the 'Jai Siyaram' slogan was used in the entire country. 
"Can Ram exist without Sita... the question does not arise. Without Sita, there cannot be Ram and without Ram there cannot be Sita," he said. "Then why have the BJP and the RSS removed maa Sita from their slogans. Why don't they ever say Jai Siyaram?"
"It's okay if you want to say Jai Shri Ram. Do so. But the RSS people will have to say Jai Siyaram and they cannot insult mother Sita," he said.
The Congress leader also targeted the BJP and the RSS over the slogan 'Hey Ram'. 
"There is another slogan that Gandhiji used to say. That is probably the most beautiful slogan... Hey Ram! This is the slogan having the deepest meaning. I want to tell you the meaning of Hey Ram. These are words that Mahatma Gandhi said after being shot. Hey Ram, Hey Ram, Hey Ram," he said.
"Today, I want to tell you the depth of that slogan and the thinking of Gandhiji. Hey Ram means Lord Ram.
 He said Lord Ram respected everyone and had no hatred towards anyone. 
"Lord Ram had a thought, he had a feeling in his heart, he had a way of life. He used to respect everyone. He didn't hate anyone. He loved everyone and hugged everyone. We call that feeling Hey Ram. When we say Hey Ram, we decide that we will live our life by the ideals Lord Ram had. This is the meaning of Hey Ram," he said.
The people of RSS have forgotten this, he said. 
"They never say Jai Siyaram, Sita has been removed and they never chant Hey Ram as they do not believe in the ideals of Lord Ram," Gandhi added.
23:16   Maha opposition rally in Mumbai against state government on Dec 17
Opposition parties will organise a protest march in Mumbai on December 17 against the Maharashtra government over several issues, including certain remarks being made against Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and the state losing mega projects, NCP leader Ajit Pawar said on Monday. 
Pawar also alleged the Eknath Shinde-BJP government has taken a "soft" stand amid a simmering border row with neighbouring Karnataka. 
He held a meeting with Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray and senior Congress leaders  Balasaheb Thorat and Ashok Chavan in Mumbai. 
Shiv Sena (UBT), Nationalist Congress Party, and Congress are constituents of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA). 
"Controversial comments are repeatedly being made against historical figures of Maharashtra such as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Savitribai Phule and Jyotiba Phule. The state government has lost some mega investment projects to Gujarat but failed to receive anything for Maharashtra. 
"The government is very soft on Belagavi and other disputed areas with Karnataka, the Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly told reporters after holding the meeting. 
Against this backdrop, Opposition parties will hold a rally between the Ranicha Baug in Byculla and Azad Maidan in south Mumbai, he said. 
Queried if the protest march will be held as planned in the event of Maharashtra Governor B S Koshyari, who is at the centre of a row over his comments regarding Chhatrapati Shivaji, steps down, Pawar said there will be no change in plans. 
"Even if he leaves his post, the rally will be organised for sure. We will raise several issues," he added. 
A huge political storm erupted in Maharashtra after Koshyari dubbed Chhatrapati Shivaji an "icon of olden times", leading to the demands for his recall. 
BJP leader and state minister Mangal Prabhat Lodha had also stirred a controversy equating Eknath Shinde's rebellion against Shiv Sena leadership in June this year with the escape of Chhatrapati Shivaji from the custody of Mughals in Agra. -- PTI 
22:55   Muslims boycott polls in Guj village over flogging
As many as 1,400 Muslim voters from Undhela village in Gujarat's Kheda district on Monday boycotted voting during the second phase of Assembly polls in protest against the public flogging of some men from the community by police two months ago, community leaders said. 
Poll officials have denied the claim saying there was no boycott call.
Community leaders said all 1,400 Muslim voters of the total 3,700 voters in the village, situated in Matar taluka, joined the protest and didn't exercise their franchise when votes were cast across 93 Assembly seats in the second phase. 
"All Muslim voters from the village stayed away from the voting process as a mark of protest against the public flogging and the administration's refusal to punish the guilty. We gave a boycott call to express our anger at the one-sided action by the police. Till now, no policemen have been suspended for their misdeed," Maqbul Saiyad, a local Muslim leader from Undhela, claimed.
However, Kheda district collector KL Bachani cited local poll officials and said there was no boycott call.
"As per the Returning Officer's report, no such incident has taken place and no one has approached us with any such issues. As per our record, 43 per cent of voters did turn up in Undhela to vote today," said Bachani.
Seven persons, including a policeman, were injured when stones were thrown at a Garba event in Kheda district in October by a group allegedly comprising members of the Muslim community. They had objected to holding the event near a mosque.
Later, videos showing policemen in plain clothes beating some men, suspected to have thrown stones, with sticks in front of other villagers went viral on social media, causing an uproar. -- PTI
21:53   Should wait till Dec 8: HP CM on as exit polls
As majority of exit polls projecting that the Bharatiya Janata Party would retain power in Himachal Pradesh, chief minister Jai Ram Thakur said people should still wait till December 8.

The counting of votes will take place on December 8.

"Many of the exit polls are showing the BJP forming the government, while some show a neck-to-neck fight on a few seats. We should wait till December 8. According to our analysis, there's a complete possibility of the BJP comfortably forming the government," Thakur said.

Two exit polls showed a dead heat between the BJP and the Congress in Himachal Pradesh where the results could go either way.
S Jaishankar with his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock
S Jaishankar with his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock
21:51   Jaishankar strongly defends India's import of crude oil from Russia
India on Monday stoutly defended its import of crude oil from Russia amid the Ukraine conflict with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar asserting that New Delhi's procurement was just one-sixth of the European purchase in last nine months, in comments that came as a G7 price cap on Russian crude at USD 60 a barrel came into effect.
At a media briefing after holding wide-ranging talks with visiting German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, Jaishankar also noted that Europe can't make choices to prioritise its energy needs while asking New Delhi to do something else, asserting that discussions between India and Russia to expand the trade basket started much before beginning of the Ukraine conflict.
The two foreign ministers also inked a bilateral mobility pact that will make it easier for people to study and work in each other's country even as the two sides vowed to ramp up cooperation in areas of defence and security, trade, climate change and clean energy.
In the joint presser, the German foreign minister, referring to increasing Chinese assertiveness, said China has changed very much over the last few years and "I think the whole region can see this and feel this."
"In Germany, we have seen what it means when you become strongly dependent on one country, a country that does not share your values. So with a view to the political and security policy aspects and developments in the region, we will closely cooperate with our partners in the region," she said.
Baerbock, who arrived in Delhi on Modnay on a two-day visit, also assured cutting delays in issuance of visas to Indians. The situation in Afghanistan, developments in Indo-Pacific and cross-border terrorism from Pakistan also figured in the talks.
To a question on India's import of crude oil from Russia, Jaishankar strongly justified it and said New Delhi and Moscow have been engaged in talks to expand trade relations much before February 24 when the Ukraine conflict began.
Jaishankar's strong comments came as a G7 cap on the price of Russian oil at USD 60 a barrel came into effect.
"I understand that there is a conflict situation (in Ukraine). I also understand that Europe has a point of view and Europe will make the choices it will make that is Europe's right. But for Europe to make choices which prioritises its energy needs and then ask India to do something else..," he said.
Jaishankar said Europe's purchase of crude oil from the Middle-East is also putting pressure on prices.
"And bear in mind, today, Europe is buying a lot (of crude oil) from the Middle-East. The Middle-East was traditionally a supplier for an economy like India. So it puts pressure on prices in the Middle-East as well. We have been very very understanding of the European choices and European policies," Jaishankar said.
The external affairs minister also said Europe bought much more fossil fuel than India between February and November.
"I think first we need to establish the facts very clearly. Between February 24 and November 17, the European Union has imported more fossil fuel from Russia than the next 10 countries combined. The oil import in the European Union is like six times what India has imported. Gas is infinite because we do not import it while the European Union imported 50 billions Euros worth (of gas)," Jaishankar said.
He said even coal imports from Russia by the European Union is 50 per cent more than India's import.
India's import of Russian oil has seen a significant increase in the last few months. New Delhi has been maintaining that it is its fundamental obligation to ensure that Indian consumers have the best possible access on the most advantageous terms to the international markets.
21:32   Adani's NDTV open offer closes with 32% subscription
Billionaire Gautam Adani's group open offer for NDTV ended on Monday with investors tendering nearly 32 per cent share of the media house despite a deep discount to the stock's current trading price.
The Adani group firm acquired nearly 53.27 lakh share shares of NDTV from the open market at a price band of 294 by the end of trading hours on Monday, exchange data showed.
The Adani group launched the open offer to buy 1.67 crore shares, or 26 per cent of equity from the NDTV's minority investors after it indirectly acquired promoter group firm RRPR Holdings, according to data available on the BSE website.
NDTV shares settled at Rs 393.90 apiece on Monday, which was almost 34 per cent higher than the offer price. In the last three months, NDTV shares reached a high of Rs 540.85 on September 5, 2022.
The shares tendered so far equal to 8.26 per cent shareholding of NDTV. Together with 29.18 per cent stake Adani group has already acquired, the ports-to-energy conglomerate would have 37.44 per cent stake - larger than 32.26 per cent holding of founders Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy.
Markets regulator Sebi had on November 7 granted its approval to the proposed Rs 492.81 crore-open offer.
Prior to Adani group's hostile takeover, promoters held 61.45 per cent stake in NDTV. This included 1.88 crore shares or 29.18 per cent held by RRPR Holding Pvt Ltd.
RRPR Holding is the firm that Adani group indirectly acquired in August -- triggering a wider open offer to buy a further 26 per cent in the media company.
Last week, NDTV announced the resignation of Roys from the RRPR board but they continued on the NDTV board.  NDTV will give Adani group a footprint in media space as part of its broader diversification spree that has led to expansion of the conglomerate beyond coal mining and ports into airports, data centers, cement and digital services.
In 2009, RRPR, or Radhika Roy Prannoy Roy Holdings Private Limited, took an interest-free loan of Rs 403 crore from a firm linked to Reliance Industries, that eventually ended up with a closely-held firm, Vishvapradhan Commercial Pvt Ltd (VCPL). -- PTI
21:29   Fake currency and black money like Jarasandha: Govt to SC on DeMo challenge
Fake currency, terror financing and black money are three evils and are like 'Jarasandha' (an antagonist in Mahabharat) and should be cut into pieces, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Monday while opposing the pleas challenging the 2016 demonetisation exercise.
Attorney General R Venkataramani, appearing for the Centre, submitted before a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice S A Nazeer that the government is duty bound to address the three evils.
"They (petitioners) have said we should have conducted studies before demonetisation. For more than a decade, central government and the Reserve Bank of India have been looking at the three problems (fake currency, terror financing, black money)... They are like Jarasandha. You have to cut it into pieces. If you don't cut it into pieces, it will always be alive," he said.
Venkataramani said judicial review of an economic policy may be restricted to where the court may only determine if there is a rational nexus with the object sought to be achieved through the means.
"Any other test would impinge on the freedom of legislature. Should the government keep aside all its considerations and only look at evils sought to be curtailed. The balance will be the real test," Venkataramani told the bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai, A S Bopanna, V Ramasubramanian, and B V Nagarathna.
The AG submitted that an argument has been raised that the notification on demonetisation has failed to achieve the objectives.
"This is not a ground on which a law will be struck down. Every minute of governance sets targets. Even the five-year plan has targets. Over a period of time, some targets are met while some are not. Does the target become bad only for this reason? he said.
The top law officer stated that executive policy are given effect with goals and this does not preclude the possibility that some objectives may not be achieved to the fullest or there may be something left to be desired in their implementation.
"This does not, however, mean that the policy is per se bad or that it deserves to be struck down. In such a case, it is the action under the law rather than the law itself which can be held invalid. There is presumption that unless proven otherwise the execution of the law is being done in a fair manner. It has been held that as long the trial and error is bona fide and with best intention, such decisions cannot be questioned as illegal," Venkataramani said.
Resisting the Supreme Court's attempt to revisit the 2016 demonetisation exercise, the government had said on Friday that the court cannot decide a matter when no tangible relief can be granted by way of "putting the clock back" and "unscrambling a scrambled egg".
The remarks by the AG had come after the apex court asked the Union government to explain whether it consulted the Central Board of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) before undertaking the scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination notes in 2016.
The Constitution bench is hearing a batch of 58 petitions challenging the demonetisation exercise.
20:48   Singer Lucky Ali says squatters on his assets, links IAS officer to 'land mafia'
Popular singer Lucky Ali has alleged that a property owned by him in Bengaluru has been encroached upon illegally by a "land mafia" with the help of a woman IAS officer.
The son of the late actor and comedian Mehmood Ali, whose original name is Maqsood Mahmood Ali, has written to Karnataka Director General of Police in this regard and has posted the same on social media sites.
The family of IAS officer Rohini Sindhuri, who has been named by Ali, has denied the charges. 
"I am currently in Dubai for work, hence the urgency. My farm which is a Trust Property located in Kenchenahalli Yelahanka is being encroached upon illegally by Sudhir Reddy (and Madhu Reddy) from the Bangalore Land Mafia. With the help of his wife who is an IAS Officer by the name of Rohini Sindhuri they are misusing State resources for their personal gain," Ali said in the post.
Alleging that they are forcibly and illegally coming inside his farm and refusing to show the relevant documents, he said, "My legal counsel is informing me that this is totally illegal and they don't have the court order to come inside the property as we are in possession, and living there since the past 50 years."
Further stating that he wanted to meet the DGP before he left for Dubai, but as he was unavailable, lodged a complaint to the jurisdictional ACP, Ali claimed that he has not had any positive response yet, and his family and small children are alone on the farm.
"I am getting no help from the local police, who are in fact supporting the encroachers and are indifferent to our situation and the legal status of our land...I request your (DGP) help to stop this illegal activity of them trying to prove a false possession before the final court hearing on December 7. Please help us as I have no choice other than to take this to the public," he added.
Madhusudhan Reddy, who is the brother-in-law of Sindhuri, termed the allegations of Ali, against him and his family members, as "false and baseless".
"In 2012, my father (Narayan Reddy) bought this land from Mansoor Ali, the brother of Maqsood Ali alias Lucky Ali and since then he has been troubling us in various ways. We approached the court in this regard in 2016, which has given the injunction order in our favour and against Lucky Ali," he said in a video statement.
Further stating that three months ago as he lost his father, he came to India from abroad, and on his mother's wish  had gone to see the property, Reddy said, "then he (Ali) had threatened us with loaded guns and goons. On that occasion, FIR was filed against him and I'm also going to proceed with contempt of court against him."
Terming Ali calling him and his family a land Mafia as "laughable", he also said, Rohini Sindhuri has nothing to do in this case.
Sindhuri's husband Sudhir Reddy, too, in a statement said, "The present actions of Lucky Ali for posting lies on social media make him fully liable for Civil and Criminal Defamation. I am taking all legal action thereon accordingly." -- PTI
20:34   My heart says Article 370 will be restored: Omar
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on Monday said his party has mounted a legal challenge to the Centre's decision to abrogate Article 370 and he believed that the special status to Jammu and Kashmir will be restored.
Referring to the criticism of his party by other mainstream political parties in the Valley, Abdullah said the NC is not keeping people in the dark over the issue of Article 370.
"How are we keeping the people in the dark? We are only saying that we will peacefully fight for its restoration. We will fight for it under the ambit of the Constitution, and legally as well, he said.
The former J and K chief minister said such people wanted the party to vitiate the atmosphere so that they get an excuse to target us more.
He said NC has mounted a legal challenge to the Centre's decision of August 5, 2019, when it ended the special status of J and K under Article 370 of the Constitution.
But, we will not lose our calm, we will fight it the right way and God willing, and this is what my heart says, we will succeed in this fight, Abdullah said, receiving thunderous applause from the party delegates.
He was addressing the party's delegate session where his father, Farooq Abdullah, was re-elected unopposed as the NC president.
Telling his partymen that there was no need to worry, the NC vice president said, We will not kneel or beg but seek the rights of the people of J-K.
We will not beg them for security or a bungalow, nor a vehicle or something else. We are only seeking the dignity of J-K, its prosperity, and its identity. God willing, the day is not far when we will succeed in this fight as well and then present ourselves before the people, he added.
Abdullah said the NC as a political party has fought many political battles but I am seeing this kind of a battle for the first time.
He said it was one thing if the party's fight was against the BJP or its B or C teams only, but the administration is also fighting us.
They are after us. They give trouble to our colleagues. There was a time when the decision to provide security was taken on the threat perception because of militancy. Today, the decision is taken on the threat perception for the BJP rather than that of the militants.
The security is provided on seeing which party is a threat to the BJP. More the threat to the BJP, the lesser the security, he said.
19:58   Congress slams Modi's 'roadshow' on voting day
The Congress on Monday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of violating the model code by taking out a roadshow before casting his vote in the second phase of polling in Gujarat and alleged that the Election Commission is "afraid" and is "under pressure" not to act against him.
Congress head of media and publicity Pawan Khera said the Congress has seen that over the last several weeks, inaction on the part of the Election Commission is evident from the watchdog of our democracy, the watchdog of our elections.
"We have been making representations to the Election Commission at various levels. Every second or third day we have made some representations or the other in Gujarat, in Delhi, but, I am afraid the Election Commission looks like it is willingly under pressure," he told reporters.
The Congress leader said the party is deliberating on taking necessary legal measures on the issue.
Khera said the value of the vote of the prime minister or that of any common man is the same. "But how is it that the PM holds a roadshow fo 2.5 hours when he goes to vote," he said.
"What are the compulsions of the Election Commission that it cannot see any violations by the prime minister," he said.
He said in the second and the last round of polling in Gujarat, Prime Minister Modi while voting in Ahmedabad decided to do a roadshow of two and half hours which was covered live by all channels free of cost.
"Is this not an advertisement? Shouldn't you be charging the BJP, why you are doing it for free," he asked.
"We will take necessary steps, and prevail upon the Election Commission of India through whatever means possible, legal means possible, to ensure that such publicity comes under the purview of election expenditure of the party, which undertakes this publicity, which forces you to run these roadshows live, especially when the election is under way," he also said.
The Congress leader also alleged that its tribal candidate and sitting MLA of Danta in Gujarat, Kantibhai Kharadi, wrote to the Election Commission seeking additional security as he apprehended a threat to his life.
By the evening he was attacked by 24 people, who he alleged were 'goons' of the BJP and he had to take cover of the forest at night, where we finally rescued him at 2.33 am.
19:34   Rajiv Ranjan 'Lalan' Singh re-elected unopposed as JD-U president
Janata Dal-United president Rajiv Ranjan Singh, better known as Lalan Singh, was on Monday elected unopposed for a fresh three-year term at the helm of the regional party. 

JD-U general secretary Afaque Ahmed Khan said Singh, a Lok Sabha MP and confidant of the party's preeminent leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, was the only person in the fray and was elected unopposed after the last date of the withdrawal of nomination was over on Monday. 

He had taken over as the president of the party in July 2021 after then incumbent R C P Singh resigned following his induction in the Union Cabinet when the JD-U) was a BJP ally. 

R C P Singh had a bitter fallout with Kumar later as he was seen to have drifted close to the BJP leadership. 

The JDU later snapped ties with the BJP and joined hands with the RJD-Congress-Left alliance. 

Party leaders said the newly-elected national council of the JD-U will meet in Patna on December 10 to ratify Lalan Singh's election, a formality, and then it will hold its plenary session the next day in the state's capital.
19:16   Govt calls all-party meet tomorrow ahead of winter session
The government has convened an all-party meet of floor leaders on Tuesday to discuss the legislative agenda and important issues likely to be discussed in the winter session of Parliament beginning December 7.
Separately, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla will on Tuesday evening chair a meeting of the business advisory committee ahead of the session. This time he decided to call a BAC meet instead of the customary all-party meet on the eve of the session, sources said.
The BAC discusses the legislative agenda of the House as well as issues on which parties would like to have discussion.
Last week, the government had listed 16 new bills for introduction in the Winter Session.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi had recently sent out invites to floor leaders of various parties to attend the all-party meet. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to be present.
The session begins a day before the votes of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assembly elections, along with those of six assembly and one Lok Sabha bypolls, are counted.
The government has also sought the cooperation of party leaders to ensure smooth functioning of both the Houses. 
The winter session of Parliament will commence on December 7 and continue till December 29, having 17 sittings spread over 23 days. -- PTI
19:01   BJP to retain Gujarat, Himachal, predict exit polls
The Bharatiya Janata Party is set to retain Gujarat, Himachal, exit polls have predicted.

In Gujarat, the BJP will come back for a record seventh straight term,  two exit polls have predicted.

Gujarat exit poll 
Republic-P-Marq: BJP (128-148), Congress (42), AAP (2-10)

Himachal Pradesh exit poll 

Republic-P-Marq: BJP (34-39, 44.8%), Congress (28-33, 42.9%)

Times Now-ETG: BJP (28, 45.1%), Congress (28, 40.9%)

NewsX-Jan Ki Baat: BJP (32-40), Congress (27-34)
18:48   Boycotting 2018 panchayat polls 'a huge mistake', says Farooq Abdullah
Re-elected National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah on Monday said boycotting the panchayat polls in 2018 was "a huge mistake" and the party must contest every future election in Jammu and Kashmir.
Abdullah also warned the government and the security forces not to interfere in any election process. 
The former Union minister had expressed a desire to step down from the post owing to his health during a recent party meeting. After his re-election, he said though he wanted to step aside and let the younger leadership run the party, he was persuaded to continue as "we are passing through a very difficult phase".
"I want to tell the party that boycotting the panchayat elections (in 2018) was a huge mistake. Remember this, we will not boycott any coming election. Instead (we will) contest and win them," Abdullah said while addressing the party's delegate session where he was re-elected unopposed as National Conference (NC) president. 
Referring to his son Omar Abdullah's announcement that he would not contest elections as long as Jammu and Kashmir remained a Union Territory, the senior Abdullah said, "As party president, I am telling you (Omar Abdullah) that you have to contest the election." 
"Because if we have to fight them, then we all have to jump into the fray and contest elections," he added. 
The former Union minister said the BJP "will do anything, even make attempts to buy your loyalties, but God will fail all their designs".
Abdullah also warned the security forces and the government not to interfere in the elections in Jammu and Kashmir and said "let people decide whom to vote for". 
"Otherwise, there will be such a storm, which you will not be able to control," he said. 
Abdullah also threatened to launch an agitation in case such a thing occurred. 
"We will be ready to sacrifice our lives. Farooq Abdullah will be the first to start an agitation over that," he said.
He said the government "had shut July 13 from us, but we will mark it again once again one day". 
He was referring to the removal of July 13 -- which commemorates the killing of 23 persons protesting against the autocratic rule in Jammu and Kashmir by Dogra forces in 1931 -- from the holiday list. 
18:18   AAP to sweep Delhi municipal poll: Exit polls
The Aam Aadmi Party is likely to get 149-171 of the 250 wards in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi election, according to an exit poll by India Today-Axis My India.

According to the exit poll, Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party may secure 43 per cent share while the Bharatiya Janata Party is expected to get 35 per cent vote share.

Another exit poll by Times Now shows teh AAP getting anywhere between 146 and 156 wards.

The results will be announced on December 7.
18:10   Ahead of budget, economists demand increase in social security pension and maternity benefits
Ahead of the Union Budget 2023-24, 51 eminent economists have written to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and demanded an increase in social security pensions and an adequate provision for maternity benefits.
The signatory of the letter includes Jean Drze (honorary professor, Delhi School of Economics), Pranab Bardhan (professor emeritus of economics, University of California Berkeley), R Nagaraj (professor of economics, IGIDR, Mumbai), Reetika Khera (professor of economics, IIT, Delhi), and Sukhadeo Thorat (professor emeritus, JNU), among others.
"This is a follow-up to our letters of 20 December 2017 and 21 December 2018 (addressed to your predecessor, Shri Arun Jaitley), where we tried to flag two priorities for the next Union Budget: an increase in social security pensions, and adequate provision for maternity benefits.
"Since both proposals were ignored, we are writing again, well in advance of the next Budget, with the same recommendations." the letter said.
According to the letter, the central government's contribution to old-age pensions under the National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS) has stagnated at just Rs 200 per month since 2006.
"This is unfair. It is also a missed opportunity," it said.
The letter said the central government's contribution should be immediately raised to Rs 500 (preferably more) at the very least.
"This requires an additional allocation of Rs 7,560 crore or so, based on the current NOAPS coverage (2.1 crore pensioners)," the letter said, adding that similarly, widow pensions should be raised from Rs 300 per month to Rs 500 at the very least.
As per the letter, this would cost just another Rs 1,560 crore.
The signatory economists also demanded that the Union Budget 2023-24 should provide for full-fledged implementation of maternity entitlements as per NFSA norms.
"This requires at least Rs 8,000 crore.
"Along with this, the illegal restriction of maternity benefits to one child per woman should be removed," they said.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the 2023-24 Budget in Parliament on February 1, 2023. -- PTI
18:07   Delhi HC refuses to stay money laundering probe against Raghav Bahl
The Delhi high court on Monday granted "last opportunity" to the Enforcement Directorate to respond to a petition by media baron Raghav Bahl to quash a money laundering case against him, and refused to pass an order staying the investigation at this stage.
Justice Jasmeet Singh said that the court would take up the petition as well as the application seeking interim relief on January 16.
The counsel for the agency informed the court that the high court denied any interim relief to the petitioner last December and even the Supreme Court refused to interfere, but the applicant is again seeking a stay on the investigation.
The petitioner cannot "ask this court, when they fail in special leave petition (before the top court), to sit on appeal against Allahabad High Court judgement that no scheduled offence is made out'', the counsel said.
The ED case against the petitioner arises from a complaint by the Income Tax (I-T) Department and concerns the alleged laundering of funds to purchase an undisclosed asset in London.
The counsel for the petitioner said that he was not attacking scheduled offence in the present case and that the Supreme Court did not grant relief in appeal only on the premise that the main petition and application were pending before the high court.
He emphasised that there has not been any adjudication on his plea for interim relief and the high court had earlier denied a direction of no coercive steps as an ad interim ex parte order.
"We will take up your petition for hearing on 16 January but there is no question of ex parte ad-interim stay,  the judge said while giving the agency two weeks to respond.
The I-T Department had initiated proceedings against the petitioner under the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act of 2015 for alleged irregularities in the returns filed for the assessment year (AY) 2018-2019.
The petitioner's counsel said that "it is nobody's case that even one rupee of tax has been evaded or money was sent abroad through hawala channels and that there was no generation of proceeds in crime in the case".
All this is water under the bridge. These are all orders which were very much there when you were in Supreme Court. All these issues you could have said there, the court said as it deferred hearing in the matter.
The matter is listed on January 16 on which date this application (for interim relief) will also be taken up. ED is given two weeks as the last opportunity to file a reply, it said.
In his petition, Raghav Bahl has claimed that since he has done no wrong, the continuation of the process of inquiry under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act of 2002 without having any subsisting basis in fact or law has a deleterious effect on his life, business, and reputation.
On December 3, 2021, the high court had sought a response from the ED on Bahl's petition to quash a money laundering case against him. -- PTI
17:36   'Goblin mode' is the Oxford Word of the Year
Goblin mode, or a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations, has been chosen as the Oxford Word of the Year after a public vote on Monday.  
The slang phrase was one of three shortlisted words put to a vote for the first time, with the others being metaverse or a virtual reality environment and #IStandWith -- used on social media to depict solidarity with a cause. 
Goblin mode won the online vote by a landslide, with 318,956 votes and 93 per cent of the total.  
"I think that Goblin Mode really does speak to the times and the zeitgeist, and it is certainly a 2022 expression," said Ben Zimmer, American linguist and language columnist and one of the panelists who chose the finalists. 
"People are looking at social norms in new ways. It gives people the license to ditch social norms and embrace new ones, he said. 
Oxford University Press (OUP) -- the publishers of the 'Oxford English Dictionary' -- said all three words experienced substantial spikes in usage and capture significant concerns, concepts, and states that we've faced this year. 
"I think as well as reflecting the extent to which our experience of the world and communication is mediated increasingly by social media and the internet, it also perhaps represents ongoing questions about ownership and regulation on new technologies -- especially those means by which we communicate," Jonathan Dent, Senior Editor, Oxford English Dictionary, OUP. 
Describing 2022 as a year that has been characterised by reunion and reconnection after the pandemic and also by activism, and social and political change, OUP decided to open up its annual Oxford Word of the Year for "everyone, everywhere" to have their say on what word best reflects their experience of 2022. 
"I'm so excited by this because this is true democracy. English is a democracy; there is no guiding authority telling us what we can say, what we can't say, what is correct and what is incorrect. This really feels like Word of the Year is going to reflect that authentic approach," said Susie Dent, popular English author and lexicographer. The Oxford Word of the Year is said to reflect the mood, ethos, and social landscape of that given year. 
For most countries, 2022 has meant reuniting with friends and family, gathering for events, and heading back into offices and workplaces. -- PTI
16:50   50.51% turnout till 3 pm in Gujarat Phase 2
An average 50.51 per cent voter turnout was recorded till 3 pm on Monday in the second and final phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections covering 93 seats across 14 districts of north and central regions, the Election Commission said.                

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, Aam Aadmi Party's chief ministerial candidate Isudan Gadhvi and Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Sukhram Rathva were among those who cast votes.
Voting began at 8 am across 14,975 polling stations and will continue till 5 pm.
The electoral fate of CM Bhupendra Patel and 832 other candidates, including 285 Independents, will be decided in the second phase.
Till 1 pm, Sabarkantha district recorded the highest voter turnout at 57.23 per cent, followed by Banaskantha with 55.52 per cent.
In Ahmedabad district, the voter turnout till 3 pm stood at 44.67 per cent. In Vadodara, it was 49.69 per cent, as per an update shared by the Election Commission.
The poll body said in the first three hours after voting began, 41 ballot units, 40 control units and 109 voter-verifiable paper audit trails (VVPATs) were replaced due to malfunctioning.
16:16   Fear among Kashmiri Pandits as terror group issues 'hitlist'
Kashmiri Pandits working in the Valley are in a state of panic after a terrorist group released a hit list of 56 employees from the community.

In the aftermath of targeted killings by terrorists, several Kashmiri Pandits employed in the Valley under the Prime Minister's Rehabilitation Package (PMRP) have shifted to Jammu and are on a protest for over 200 days demanding relocation.

They have been camping outside the rehabilitation commissioner's office here. Recently, a blog linked to The Resistance Front (TRF), an offshoot of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, published a list of 56 Kashmiri Pandit employees under PMRP, and warned of mounting attacks on them.

"Terror groups have previously sent us threat letters, but this time, the warning is accompanied by a list of employees. This has created a fear not only among the protesting employees but the entire community," Ranjan Zutshi, one of the protesting employees, told PTI on Monday.

He said the latest warning cannot be dismissed as a propaganda as 'they (terrorists) have all relevant information about the employees'.

Demanding a probe into the leak of names to terrorists, Zutshi said it shows the terror ecosytem is deep-rooted and needs to be dismantled by taking stern action against overground supporters.

"The government must find out who leaked such vital information to terrorists. The police should take such things seriously and ensure the safety of those employees who are still stationed in the Valley," he said.

Another employee Rakesh Kumar said their demands for the past 208 days have gone unanswered.

"The government is stopping our salaries and using pressure tactics to force us to move back to our place of postings in the Valley. How can we even think of returning in such a situation?" he said.

Kumar said the Kashmiri Pandits have decided not to rejoin their duties in the Valley as it is directly related to their 'life and death'.

"We can work only if we are alive...the government should immediately relocate us to save our families who are suffering immensely, both mentally as well as financially," he said.   -- PTI
15:56   Operation on Lalu underway
Lalu Prasad Yadav's daughter, Misa Bharti, shares this picture of her sister Rohini in the ICU in Singapore. Rohini donated her kidney to her father today. Misa writes that the operation on Rohini was successful and she is doing well, while the operation on her father is taking place now. 
15:47   Forced religious conversion anti-Constitution: SC
Reaffirming that forced religious conversion is a "serious issue", the Supreme Court said on Monday it is against the Constitution. 

The court was hearing a plea filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking direction to the Centre and states to take stringent steps to control fraudulent religious conversion by "intimidation, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits". 

The Centre told the court it is collecting information from states on religious conversion through such means. Appearing before a bench of Justices M R Shah and C T Ravikumar, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought time to furnish detailed information on the issue. 

 "We are gathering information from the states. Give us a week's time," Mehta said. He said statutory the regime will determine whether a person is converting due to some change in belief. The top court acknowledged forced religious conversion is a very serious matter. When a lawyer questioned the maintainability of the plea, the bench said,

"Do not be so technical. We are here to find a solution. We are here for a cause. We are here to set things right. If the purpose of the charity is good then it is welcome but what is required to be considered is the intention. "Do not take it as adversarial. It is a very serious issue. Ultimately it is against our Constitution. When everyone stays in India, they have to act per the culture of India," the bench observed. 

 The apex court will now take up the matter on December 12.
15:31   Shashi Tharoor joining NCP? He said...
 Hours after an offer made by Nationalist Congress Party's (NCP) state president PC Chacko, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor made it clear that he is not going to NCP. 

Tharoor also said that there was no such matter discussed with PC Chacko.

Shashi Tharoor reacted to Chacko's comment today at Kochi while he was speaking to reporters. 

Tharoor said, "I need to be welcomed if I am going there. I am not going to NCP. Such matters were not discussed with PC Chacko."

It was yesterday that Chacko, who was in Congress for a long time welcomed Tharoor to his party at Kannur. The NCP leader said, "If Congress MP Shashi Tharoor comes to NCP, we will accept him warmly. Shashi Tharoor will remain as Thiruvananthapuram MP even if the Congress party rejects him. I do not know why Congress is ignoring Tharoor."

Chacko also said, "Shashi Tharoor is the only Congress leader capable of challenging the BJP. Can any of the Congress leaders in Kerala express the opinion expressed by Shashi Tharoor on the issue of the construction of Vizhinjam port. It is an example of Tharoor's political maturity. Can any of the Congress leaders in Kerala make such an opinion?"

"Shashi Tharoor will remain as Thiruvananthapuram MP even if the Congress rejects him. But Congress is the only party that doesn't understand that. I do not know why Congress is ignoring Tharoor and is it because of jealousy," he added.

The offer from Chacko came while the reports of tussle inside the Congress' state unit after Tharoor actively started participating in events and meeting with religious and political leaders across the state.  -- ANI
14:35   Gujarat polls: 34.74% voter turnout till 1 pm
An average 34.74 per cent voter turnout was recorded till 1 pm on Monday in the second phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections covering 93 seats across 14 districts of north and central regions, the Election Commission said. 

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, Aam Aadmi Party's chief ministerial candidate Isudan Gadhvi and Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Sukhram Rathva were among those who cast votes. 

 Voting began at 8 am across 14,975 polling stations. The electoral fate of CM Bhupendra Patel and 832 other candidates including 285 independents will be decided in the second phase.
Lalu Yadav with his daughter, Rohini, who donated her kidney
Lalu Yadav with his daughter, Rohini, who donated her kidney
14:02   Lalu's kidney transplant successful: Tejashwi
RJD president Lalu Prasad's kidney transplant surgery on Monday in Singapore was successful, his son and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav said. Yadav said his father, as well as elder sister Rohini Acharya, who donated one of her kidneys to the 74-year-old, were fine. He also heartily thanked his well-wishers for their prayers. PTI
13:37   Modi, Nadda arrive at party HQ for BJP's 2-day mega meet
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday arrived at the party headquarters to inaugurate the two-day national office bearers' meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which will be presided over by its national president JP Nadda.

Nadda received PM Modi at the party headquarters. As per the information, Nadda will preside over the two-day national office bearers' meeting of the party, which is scheduled to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss preparations for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
PM's brother Somabhai Modi
PM's brother Somabhai Modi
13:33   I told him that... PM's brother gets emotional
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's elder brother Somabhai Modi cast his vote in Ahmedabad on Monday in the second phase of the Assembly elections.

Somabhai Modi cast his vote at Nishan Public school, Ranip in Ahmedabad, the same polling booth where PM Modi had voted. 

Somabhai got emotional as he talked about the Prime Minister who visited him earlier today.

Speaking to ANI, the Prime Minister's brother revealed his interaction with him.

"I told him (PM Modi) that he works a lot for the country, and he should take some rest as well," Somabhai said.

He said that the people of the country cannot ignore the kind of work that is being done at the national level since 2014, which he believed would be the basis of voting in the Gujarat Assembly elections.

"My only message to the voters is that they should use their votes well. They should vote for such a party that would work for the development of the country. The people have seen the kind of work that has been done at the national level since 2014, they cannot ignore it. People will vote based on that," he said. -- ANI
OPS pays tribute at Jayalalithaa's memorial
OPS pays tribute at Jayalalithaa's memorial
13:27   It's six years since Jayalalithaa died
Late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was remembered across the state on Monday on her sixth death anniversary, with rival AIADMK leaders K Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam paying tributes separately.

 Scores of party workers and supporters, many clad in black attire, turned up at the late leader's memorial at the Marina beach in Chennai.

 Palaniswami, AIADMK interim general secretary, led scores of supporters in paying floral tributes to Jayalalithaa. He was also clad in black.

 The party workers also vowed to walk the path laid down by her, saying she steered the party that was founded by the stalwart and late CM MGR (M G Ramachandran), to "chase away evil force" and make Tamil Nadu proud.
13:24   Teen girl abducted, raped by tuition teacher in UP's Ballia
Another day, another rape in Uttar Pradesh, which is being touted as being safe for women under the Yogi Adityanath dispensation.

A 17-year-old girl was allegedly abducted and raped by her tuition teacher in Bairia area of Ballia, police said on Monday. 

 The accused, Nitesh Kumar, was arrested on Sunday, senior sub-inspector (Bairia) Atul Mishra said. Kumar abducted the teen on November 7 and raped her, he said. 

 On the complaint of the girl's mother, a case under sections pertaining to rape and kidnapping of the Indian Penal Code and POCSO Act has been registered. A detailed probe is on in the matter, he said. PTI
13:11   PM's mother votes
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's mother Hiraba cast her vote at a polling booth in Raysan village near Gandhinagar city on Monday during the second phase of polling for Gujarat Assembly elections. 

 The PM's mother, who entered her 100th year in June, lives with her younger son Pankaj Modi in Raysan village near Gandhinagar city. 

 She reached the polling booth in a wheelchair with the help of Pankaj Modi and other family members and exercised her franchise. 

 The PM had on Sunday evening met his mother and sought her blessings after arriving in the state ahead of voting in the state. Polling was underway on Monday for the second phase of the elections in north and central regions for 93 Assembly seats out of the total 182 in the state. PTI
The CDS, General Anil Chauhan
The CDS, General Anil Chauhan
13:04   CDS to deliver Gen Rawat's undelivered lecture at Wellington
In memory of the country's first Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, his successor General Anil Chauhan is visiting the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington today. 

There he would deliver the lecture that Gen Rawat was supposed to give but could not due to the chopper crash in which he, his wife Madhulika and 12 other military personnel perished on December 8, 2021, while on the way to Wellington. 

"Gen Anil Chauhan is visiting the DSSC in Wellington today to deliver a speech in the memory of late Gen Rawat," defence officials told ANI. 

The present CDS worked closely with Gen Rawat as Director General of Military Operations and then as Eastern Army Commander. 

Gen Chauhan was chosen to succeed Gen Rawat as Chief of Defence Staff in October this year. 

Gen Chauhan would also be accompanying the families of all the soldiers whose family members lost their lives in the chopper crash to the National War Memorial. 

In other commemorative evens, the Indian Navy has announced that it is going to name the trophies for best Agniveer trainee after the late CDS. 

The Indian Army is organising a memorial lecture for the late CDS on December 10. 

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Gen Chauhan are scheduled to launch a book on Gen Bipin Rawat on December 8.
PM Modi's mother Heeraben Modi casts her vote in Gandhinagar.
PM Modi's mother Heeraben Modi casts her vote in Gandhinagar.
12:53   19.17% turnout till 11 am in Gujarat Phase 2
An average voter turnout of 19.17 per cent was recorded in the first three hours of polling till 11 am on Monday in the second phase of Gujarat assembly elections in 93 seats across 14 districts of north and central regions, the Election Commission said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel were among the early voters who exercised their franchise at different booths in Ahmedabad.

The electoral fate of CM Bhupendra Patel and 832 other candidates including 285 independent nominees will be decided in the second phase.

Till 11 am, Chhota Udepur district recorded the highest turnout at 23.33 per cent. In Ahmedabad, it stood at 16.81 per cent, the lowest among 14 districts, the Election Commission said in its latest update.

Vadodara recorded 19.13 per cent voting, it said.  -- PTI
12:34   UP bypolls: Cops preventing voting, says SP
Polling gained momentum after starting on a dull note in the bypolls to three seats in Uttar Pradesh with about 19 per cent of the voters exercising their franchise till 11 am in Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat, while Rampur Sadar and Khatauli assembly seats saw 11.3 and 20.7 per cent polling on Monday, EC officials said. 

 As the voting progressed, both the SP and BJP hurled allegations against each other. 

 The SP, through its official Twitter handle, alleged use of police force and also charged that officials on election duty were preventing people from casting their votes. It also posted a video alleging distribution of money by BJP agents at Bhogaon area of Mainpuri.

The BJP also alleged on Twitter that in some booth in Mainpuri, "unscrupulous elements of SP" were preventing people from casting their votes and sought the EC's intervention. 

A party delegation also met the UP CEO and handed him over a memorandum. 

 When asked about the SP's allegation, BJP state president Bhupinder Singh Chaudhary said the SP will taste defeat on all the three seats. 

 "The SP is making baseless allegations as it is going to taste defeat in all the three seats," Chaudhary told reporters. 

 The EC said in a statement that "Till 11 am, Mainpuri witnessed 18.72 per cent while Rampur and Khatauli had 11.3 and 20.7 per cent polling." Polling started at 7 am and will continue till 6 pm. 

 The bypolls are witnessing a direct contest between the ruling BJP and the opposition Samajwadi Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) alliance. 

The BSP and the Congress are not contesting the seats.

 In a tweet, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath appealed to people "to vote for security, development and good governance. Every vote is precious."

 Among those who cast their votes in Mainpuri included SP President Akhilesh Yadav, his wife Dimple Yadav, who cast their votes at Abhinav school in Saifai (in Mainpuri constituency). Pragatisheel Samajwadi party (Lohia) Shivpal Singh Yadav and SP general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav also cast their votes.

In these three seats, 24.43 lakh people -- 13.14 lakh men, 11.29 lakh women and 132 third gender voters -- are eligible to exercise their franchise. 

 Voting is take place at 3,062 polling booths located in 1,945 polling centres.

 The by-election to the Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat is taking place due to the demise of Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav, while the bypolls in Rampur Sadar and Khatauli were necessitated after SP MLA Azam Khan and BJP MLA Vikram Singh Saini were disqualified following their conviction in separate cases.
Rahul Gandhi interacts with kids at the Yatra
Rahul Gandhi interacts with kids at the Yatra
12:06   Yatra@Raj: Chai pe charcha and a hospitalisation
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi began the Rajasthan leg of his Bharat Jodo Yatra from Jhalawar district on Monday morning, with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot in attendance. 

 The 89th day of the yatra started from Kali Talai in Jhalrapatan, a rural area on the Rajasthan-Madhya Pradesh border. 

 Gandhi set off the yatra at 6.10 am when the temperature was 13 degrees Celsius, but he was seemingly comfortable walking in a half sleeves T-shirt and trousers teamed with sports shoes, while the other leaders and workers were seen in jackets.

 The other notable leaders who accompanied Gandhi were AICC general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal, Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief Govind Singh Dotasra, senior leader Bhanwar Jitendra Singh, and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas.

 During the yatra, Gandhi interacted with about half a dozen children and waved at a large number of people who participated in the yatra who called it a "fair".

 He sipped his morning tea at a dhaba. During the yatra, former MP Raghuveer Meena felt uneasiness and he was taken to the district hospital in Jhalawar in an ambulance. After covering about 14 km, the padayatra halted at Baliborda chauraha.

 It will resume after lunch from Nahardi area at 3.30 pm. 

 The Congress party tweeted in Hindi asking its members and supporters not to slow down but deliver "something amazing". 

 "Bharat Jodo Yatra has saluted the soil of bravery, and Rajasthan, which is a land of histories, will create another history, the party tweeted. The yatra entered Rajasthan from Madhya Pradesh on Sunday evening. 

 While Gehlot shared pictures on Twitter, Pilot took to the micro-blogging platform to convey that the yatra in the state started with a resolve to fulfil hopes and expectations of the youth.

 Dotasara tweeted, "The caravan of Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi to tie India in the thread of love, harmony and unity has now set out to create history in Rajasthan." Rajasthan is the only Congress-ruled state where the yatra has entered and will cover about 500 km passing through Jhalawar, Kota, Bundi, Sawai Madhopur, Dausa and Alwar districts over 17 days before entering Haryana on December 21. Gandhi will interact with farmers at Lalsot in Dausa on December 15 and address a public meeting at Malakheda in Alwar on December 19.
11:36   Gujarat CM votes
Gujarat CM Bhupendra Patel casts his vote for the second phase of Gujarat Assembly elections at booth 95, Shilaj Anupam School.
The PM met his mother in Ahmedabad yesterday
The PM met his mother in Ahmedabad yesterday
11:32   PM: Gujaratis listen to everyone but vote for...
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday cast his vote at a polling station here during the second phase of the Assembly elections in Gujarat and said the state's people listen to everybody, but it is their nature to accept what is true. 

 He also congratulated the Election Commission for conducting the polls in a "spectacular manner" and raising the prestige of India's democracy in the whole world. 

 He said the voters of Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi celebrated "the festival of democracy" with great enthusiasm. The Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh were held last month and the municipal polls in Delhi took place on Sunday. 

 "For the celebration of democracy, I heartily congratulate the citizens of the country and greet them. I also heartily congratulate the Election Commission. It has developed a great tradition of conducting elections in a very spectacular manner, increasing the prestige of India's democracy in the whole world," Modi told reporters after casting his vote at a polling station in Ranip area of Ahmedabad city. 

 He also heartily thanked the voters of Gujarat, saying they celebrated the festival of democracy with great enthusiasm and held discussions in an excellent manner. 

 "The people of Gujarat are discreet. They listen to everyone and it is their nature to accept what is true. And according to that nature, they are also voting in large numbers. I am also very thankful to the voters of Gujarat," he said. 

 Modi arrived at the polling station at Nishan High School in Ranip locality of Ahmedabad city at around 9.30 am to exercise his democratic right. He stood in a queue for a while to cast his vote. After emerging from the polling station, the PM showed his inked finger to the crowd gathered to welcome him. 

 He then walked to the house of his elder brother Soma Modi near the polling station. In the morning, Modi in a tweet appealed to people, particularly the young and women voters, to come in large numbers to exercise their franchise. He also urged those voting in the bypolls being held in different parts of the country "to turnout in large numbers and vote." Voting began at 8 am for the second phase of the Gujarat Assembly polls in 93 seats across the state's central and north regions comprising 14 districts. The first phase of elections were held on December 1 in 89 seats in the state's south and Saurashtra-Kutch regions. The counting of votes for all the 182 Assembly seats in the state will be held on December 8. For the second phase of the Gujarat polls, a total of 833 candidates from 61 political parties, including Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are in the fray in the 93 Assembly segments spread across Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Gandhinagar and other districts. PTI
11:17   'City of Joy' author Dominique Lapierre dies
Dominique Lapierre, a French author with a passion for India and whose novels sold tens of millions of copies, has died, his wife announced. 

"At 91, he died of old age," Dominique Conchon-Lapierre told the French newspaper Var-Matin on Sunday.

She added that she is "at peace and serene since Dominique is no longer suffering".

His 1985-work City of Joy-- based on the hardships of a rickshaw puller in Kolkata -- that turned out to be a massive success. It was also adapted for a movie in 1992 which starred Patrick Swayze and was directed by Roland Joffe.

Born on July 30, 1931 in Chatelaillon, Lapierres works, in collaboration with the American writer Larry Collins, became bestsellers such that they sold about 50 million copies of the six books he wrote.

His most popular work was Is Paris Burning? that was published in 1965 and traced the events leading up to 1944s time period when Nazi Germany seized their control of Paris. It eventually was adapted for the big screen by Francis Ford Coppola and Gore Vidal. Other works by the duo included Or Ill Dress You in Mourning (1968), O Jerusalem (1972),  The Fifth Horseman (1980), and Is New York Burning?

The author was awarded the Padma Bhushan, Indias third highest civilian award, in 2008.
11:11   Amit Shah and family vote
Union Home Minister Amit Shah and his family offer prayers at a temple in Ahmedabad after casting their votes for the second phase of the Gujarat Elections 2022. His son and BCCI secretary Jay Shah also with them. After voting, Shah, said, "I appeal to everyone to vote, especially the first-time voters - the young girls and boys should vote."
Narendra Modi voted in Ahmedabad
Narendra Modi voted in Ahmedabad
10:33   4.75% turnout in first hour of Gujarat polls
An average 4.75 per cent voter turnout was recorded on Monday in the initial one hour of polling in the second phase of Gujarat Assembly elections for 93 seats, the Election Commission said. 

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel were among the early voters. 

 Voting began at 8 am in 14,975 polling stations for the second phase of elections in 93 constituencies, out of the total 182 in Gujarat, spread across 14 districts of north and central regions. 

 The fate of 833 candidates, including CM Patel, will be decided in the second phase. 

 District-wise, Gandhinagar recorded the highest turnout so far at 7.05 per cent, while Mahisagar district recorded the lowest turnout of 3.76 per cent, the Election Commission said in its update. 

 As per constituency-wise data, Gandhinagar North recorded the highest turnout of 12.97 per cent between 8 am and 9 am.

 The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are contesting in all the 93 seats.  The Congress is contesting in 90 seats and its alliance partner Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has fielfed two candidates.
10:07   Naqvi votes in UP
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi votes in Rampur for the UP by-polls. 
10:04   Delhi guv votes in Ahmedabad
Delhi Lt Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena and his wife cast their votes for the second phase of the Gujarat Assembly Polls, today in Ahmedabad.
10:02   Modi shows the finger
PM Modi tweets, "Cast my vote in Ahmedabad. Urging all those voting today to turnout in record numbers and vote."
09:55   BJP to hold 2-day key meet to strategise for 2024
As Gujarat votes in the second and final phase of the assembly polls on Monday, a key two-day meeting of BJP leaders will begin in New Delhi to review the party's preparations and chalk out its strategy for the next round of elections in states and the all-important Lok Sabha contest in 2024. 

The party said in a statement that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the BJP's national office-bearers' meeting in the afternoon at the party headquarters here. Besides them, presidents and general secretaries (organisation) of the party's state units will also attend the meeting, as is the practice. 

 The meeting, to be chaired by BJP national president J P Nadda, will deliberate on the party's future strategy, take stock of its preparations for the next round of state assembly polls and review various ongoing organisational activities, the statement said. 

 The party leaders are engaged in organisational works round the year, and the meeting will also serve as a stock-taking exercise.

 Various groups of leaders, including Union ministers, have also been roped in to further strengthen the party's presence, especially in places where it lost in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and is eying victory in 2024. 

 Some electorally important states, including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, besides Tripura and Chhattisgarh are scheduled to have assembly polls ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. PTI
Eyes on the camera as Modi votes
Eyes on the camera as Modi votes
09:32   Gujarat 2nd phase polls: Narendra Modi votes
Prime Minister Narendra Modi casts his vote for the second phase of Gujarat Assembly elections at the Nishan Public school, Ranip. 
08:51   Bharat Jodo Yatra begins in Rajasthan; Gehlot, Pilot join Rahul
Rahul Gandhi began his Bharat Jodo Yatra in the Congress-ruled Rajasthan on Monday morning.

The yatra commenced from Kali Talai in Jhalrapatan in Jhalawar.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Pradesh Congress Committee chief Govind Singh Dotasra, former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot, ministers, MLAs and many other leaders and workers joined Gandhi.

Tight security arrangements have been made for the yatra.

After covering 14 km, the yatra is scheduled to reach Baliborda chauraha at around 10 am.

After the lunch break, the yatra will restart from Nahardi at 3.30 pm.

Gandhi is scheduled to hold a corner meeting at Chandrabhaga chauraha in the evening.

The yatra will take a halt in Jhalawar for a night stay.

The yatra entered Rajasthan from the Madhya Pradesh district of Agar Malwa on Sunday.   -- PTI
08:32   Attacked, ran in jungle for 2 hrs: Guj Cong MLA
Just hours before the voting in the second phase of Gujarat assembly polls on Monday, Congress sitting MLA Kanti Kharadi from Scheduled Tribes reserved Danta seat in Banaskantha district in North Gujarat has claimed that he was assaulted by the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Ladhu Parghi.

"I was going to my voters. BJP candidate Ladhu Parghi along with L K Barad and his brother Vadan ji were amongst those who attacked us. They were carrying weapons with them and attacked me with swords," Kanti Kharadi said while talking to ANI.

He further said, "Our vehicles were going through Bamodara four-way, then the BJP candidate blocked our way after that we decided to return, then more people came and attacked us on that side."

"Whatever happened is unfortunate. I was going to my area as there's an election. I saw that the atmosphere was heated there so I decided to escape," he said.

"While our car was returning, some cars chased us. BJP candidate (from Danta constituency) Latu Parghi and two others came with weapons, with swords. We thought we must escape, we ran for 10-15 km and for two hours we were in the jungle," the Congress candidate said.

Posting a tweet, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi alleged, 'Congress tribal leader and Danta Assembly candidate, Kantibhai Kharadi was brutally attacked by BJP goons and is now missing.'

Danta is a seat reserved for Scheduled Tribe communities and Kharadi from Congress and Ladhubhai Parghi from BJP are in the fray for the seat.

Kanti Kharadi said that he had saved his life from 'BJP goon' by running about 15 km in the dark of the night.

Accusing the Election Commission officers of not taking his letter seriously regarding the apprehension of the attack, Kharadi said, 'I had written a letter four days back but no action has been taken. If the Commission had taken action, this attack would not have happened.'

Kharadi who is a Congress MLA for the last 10 years, said that the BJP candidate had also warned him earlier that party leaders should not come to campaign in the area.

"They did so because a large number of people gathered in Danta in support of the Congress," he asserted.

However, further investigation is underway.

Earlier, Congress working president and in-charge of Banaskantha district for the party Jignesh Mevani also alleged that Kharadi was attacked by BJP goons fearing the party's defeat.

'Congress candidate Kantibhai Kharadi from Danta constituency in Banaskantha has been attacked by the goons of BJP -a night before polling fearing their defeat. Is this how free and fair elections would be conducted,' Mevani wrote in a tweet.

'Attack on Congress MLA from Danta constituency Kantibhai Kharadi by BJP candidate and his goons. An attempt was made to kill him while intercepting his four-wheeler. The vehicle has turned turtle. Still, Kantibhai Kharadi is missing,' he further said.

Mevani also shared the letter by Kanta Kharadi written to the Election Commission regarding the apprehension of the attack.   -- ANI