Sat, 22 January 2022
25 tableaux, 16 marching contingent in R-Day parade
21:39 25 tableaux, 16 marching contingent in R-Day parade
This year's Republic Day parade will have 16 marching contingents, 17 military bands and 25 tableaux of various states, departments and armed forces, the Indian Army said in a statement on Saturday.
The Army will be represented by a mounted column of cavalry, 14 mechanised columns, six marching contingents and a flypast by advanced light helicopters of its aviation wing at the Republic Day parade-2022 (RDP-2022), it said.
The mechanised columns of the Army will show one PT-76 tank, one Centurion tank, two MBT Arjun MK-I tanks, one OT-62 TOPAS armoured personnel carrier, one BMP-I infantry fighting vehicle and two BMP-II infantry fighting vehicles, it stated.
One 75/24 Pack howitzer, two Dhanush howitzers, one PMS bridge-laying system, two Sarvatra bridge-laying systems, one HT-16 electronic warfare system, two Taran Shakti electronic warfare systems, one Tiger Cat missile system and two Akash missile systems will also be part of the mechanised columns at RDP-22.
PT-76, Centurion tank, OT-62 and 75/24 Pack howitzer played a major role in the 1971 Indo-Pak war in which India defeated Pakistan. The war led to the creation of Bangladesh.
The six marching contingents of the Indian Army at RDP-2022 will be of Rajput Regiment, Assam Regiment, Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry, Sikh Light Infantry, Army Ordnance Corps Regiment and Parachute Regiment, according to the statement.
One marching contingent each of the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy will also participate in RDP-2022, the statement said.
From the central paramilitary forces, five marching contingents of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Central Industrial Police Force (CISF), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and Border Security Force will participate in RDP-2022, it stated.
Overall, there will be 16 marching contingents from armed forces, central paramilitary forces, Delhi Police, National Cadet Corps (NCC), National Service Scheme (NSS) along with 17 military bands, pipes and drum bands at the parade, it noted. --
20:39 Delhi records 45 Covid deaths, highest since June 5
Delhi on Saturday recorded 45 deaths due to COVID-19, the highest since June 5, and 11,486 fresh cases with a positivity rate of 16.36 per cent, according to data shared by the health department.
The number of tests conducted a day ago stood at 70,226, according to the latest health bulletin.
With the fresh coronavirus cases, the total infection tally in the national capital rose to 17,82,514. The death toll increased to 25,586.
On June 5, the city had registered 60 deaths and 414 coronavirus cases.
Delhi had logged 10,756 fresh Covid cases and 38 fatalities due to the infection on Friday, while the positivity rate had declined to 18.04 per cent.
On Thursday, the infection tally was 12,306 while 43 fatalities were also reported. -- PTI
20:22 Owaisi announces new front, proposes 2 CMs for UP
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen president Asaduddin Owaisi on Saturday announced his alliance in Uttar Pradesh with Babu Singh Kushwaha and Bharat Mukti Morcha.
"If the alliance comes to power there will be two Chief Ministers, one from OBC community and another from Dalit community. There would be three Deputy Chief Ministers including from Muslim community," he told a press conference.
Upon being questioned whether this an alliance formed out of compulsion, Babu Singh Kushwaha said that it is not of compulsion.
"We worked for Dalit, backward and minority community for a long time," he said.
19:59 62% Maha parents unwilling to send kids to school
About 62 per cent of surveyed parents in Maharashtra are unwilling to send their children to school from January 24, amid the state government's decision to allow reopening of schools from Monday.
The findings were based on a survey conducted by online community platform LocalCircle across tier-I, tier-II/III and tier-IV cities of the state that received 4,976 responses.
Of the total, 67 per cent respondents were men and the remaining 33 per cent women, the survey showed.
Immediately after the onset of the Omicron-led third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maharashtra government had on January 8 ordered closure of all schools and colleges in the state till February 15 to contain the spread of the virus.
However, on January 20, the state education minister, contrary to earlier decision, announced that schools in the state for 1st-12th standard will reopen from January 24.
While the BMC has allowed schools to reopen in Mumbai, the Maharashtra government has allowed local bodies to take the decision on reopening schools after assessing the COVID-19 situation in their respective areas.
However, students will not be forced to attend physical classes where schools reopen. In cities like Pune and Aurangabad, it has been decided to keep schools shut while classes continue in the online mode.
LocalCircles has been closely tracking parents' willingness to send their children to attend in-person classes in school at a national and state level since the pandemic started.
Amid Maharashtra's announcement to reopen schools, LocalCircles has once again gone back to parents to understand their willingness to send their ward to attend classes at school from January 24, it said.
In response, the majority -- 62 per cent of surveyed parents of school children in Maharashtra -- said that they are unwilling to send their children to school from January 24.
"However, 11 per cent of citizens said, Yes (will send from January 24) and 16 per cent said they are already sending their children (to school)," LocalCircles said.
At the same time, it said, 11 per cent did not offer any opinion.
In summary, 62 per cent of the parents of school-going children surveyed in Maharashtra are unwilling to send their children to school from January 24 amid a surge of COVID cases and high test positivity rate between 20-25 per cent in the state, it stated.
On Friday, Maharashtra reported 48,270 COVID cases from 2,05,938 tests conducted and there were 37 related deaths, as per the LocalCircles.
Test Positivity Rate in the state continues to remain high at 23.4 per cent, it said, adding with children under the age of 15 years being unvaccinated and 15-18 age group only partially vaccinated and the highly transmissible nature of Omicron, many parents are concerned about sending children for in-person school. -- PTI
19:54 JK statehood to be restored once situation 'normalises': Shah
Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held after completion of the ongoing delimitation process and statehood will be restored once situation in the union territory becomes normal, Home Minister Amit Shah said on Saturday.
Virtually releasing India's first "District Good Governance Index", he said Jammu and Kashmir is a priority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and multipronged efforts are being made for the all round development of the union territory.
"As far as the democratic process is concerned, the delimitation process has started. After its completion, we will hold the (assembly) elections.
"Some people have said many things, but I want to tell you that I had given assurance in Parliament that the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir will be restored. Once situation in Jammu and Kashmir becomes normal, the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir will be restored," he said.
Shah said some people want to create confusion in the minds of the people of the valley and he wants to request everyone not to fall into their trap.
He said democracy has reached the lowest level of the society after implementation of the panchayati raj system and that is why some people are worried.
He said Jammu and Kashmir can be developed only through democracy, and people can be happy and youths can get jobs also through democracy.
"But to sustain the democracy, peace is necessary in Jammu and Kashmir. I want to appeal to the youths of Jammu and Kashmir not to get instigated by the statements of vested interests. I want to tell the youths to have faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have faith in Jammu and Kashmir administration," he said.
Shah said some people were spreading lies for their narrow political interests.
"I want to appeal to everyone, especially the youths to ask these people some questions. Those who are saying that the valley's land will be usurped, they should be asked whose land has been taken away so far. By spreading such lies, they are trying to put barrier in the development of Jammu and Kashmir.
"Those who were saying that violence will enhance. They should be asked whether violence has gone up or reduced. They had said no investment will come, but the fact is that already Rs 12,000 crore investment has come. Tourists arrivals have also gone up and Jammu and Kashmir is matching towards development," he said.
Shah said many changes have taken place in Jammu and Kashmir under the initiative of the local administration and the guidance of the prime minister.
"I want to tell everyone, especially youths, youths of the valley, to give attention towards development, be part of the development process," he said. -- PTI
18:26 Gandhi's favourite hymn dropped from Beating Retreat
One of Mahatma Gandhi's favourite Christian hymns Abide With Me has been dropped from this year's Beating Retreat ceremony on January 29, according to a brochure released by the Indian Army on Saturday.
Abide With Me, written by Scottish Anglican poet and hymnologist Henry Francis Lyte in 1847, has been part of the Beating Retreat ceremony since 1950.
This year's ceremony will conclude with Sare Jahan Se Acha, the brochure stated.
The Beating Retreat used to end with the Abide With Me hymn.
The brochure also listed 26 tunes that will be played at this year's ceremony at Vijay Chowk.
17:57 Op Snow Leopard still on: Army Commander amid on LAC row
The 'Operation Snow Leopard' is still on with troops on alert and ready to meet any eventuality as the focus of disengagements in Ladakh continues to be through talks, Army's northern commander Lt Gen Y K Joshi said on Saturday.
Joshi, the General Officer-Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C), was speaking at the northern command's investiture ceremony at its headquarters in Jammu and Kashmir's Udhampur, where the units involved in the Ladakh operation ran away with major share of the appreciation certificates.
He presented GOC-in-C's appreciation to 40 units and GOC-in-C's 'Certificates of Appreciation' to 26 units for their 'outstanding' and 'distinguished' performance in the command theatre.
The GOC-in-C's Appreciation was given to units for their performance in Operation Meghdoot, Operation Rakshak, Operation Northern Borders, and other operations.
The GOC-in-C's Certificates of Appreciation were given to units involved in Operation Snow Leopard, which was launched after China refused to move back and restore status quo ante in eastern Ladakh.
"The importance of both the union territories of J&K and Ladakh is well known and we have played our role as far as the security of this region is concerned with full dedication and devotion and are maintaining our complete dominance, whether it is Line of Control, Line of Actual Control, Actual Ground Position Line and International Border," the army commander said in his address.
He said the brave soldiers of the northern command foiled the aggressive designs of the enemy.
Referring to the developments in Ladakh in the wake of Chinese aggression, he said disengagement with People's Liberation Army was completed from various areas in a peaceful manner and efforts are on through dialogue for disengagement from other areas.
However, the troops are maintaining alertness on the snow-bound peaks, he said.
On counter-insurgency campaign undertaken under Operation Rakshak, he said the people of Kashmir have rejected terrorism, separatism, and gun culture, and after many years, the number of terrorists has gone below 200 in the valley which is a "big achievement".
17:35 Partly cloudy sky forecast in Delhi on Republic Day
The India Meteorological Department has forecast partly cloudy sky with no likelihood of rainfall in Delhi on January 26 when the country holds grand Republic Day celebrations on Rajpath in the national capital.
However, the weatherman has predicted shallow fog in the morning in the city that day.
The maximum temperature on January 26 is likely to hover between 17-19 degrees Celsius, while the minimum temperature is expected to settle around 5-7 degrees Celsius, the IMD said on Saturday.
According to the forecast by IMD, western disturbance lies over north Pakistan and neighbourhood with a trough aloft in mid and upper tropospheric westerlies roughly along longitude 65E to the north of latitude 28N with an induced low pressure area over central parts of west Rajasthan in lower tropospheric levels.
On January 26, no rainfall is likely, but partly cloudy sky and shallow fog in the morning has been forecast.
For two days, preceding the Republic Day, the weatherman has forecast partly cloudy sky and moderate fog in the morning. And, for Sunday the forecast is general cloudy sky, light to moderate rainfall in the morning, and very light rainfall in the evening, and gusty winds with speed of 15-25 kmph have also been predicted, the IMD said. -- PTI
17:01 Sexual assault: Dileep gets interim protection from arrest
The Kerala high court on Saturday granted interim protection to actor Dileep from arrest but directed him and other accused to appear before the investigating officers on January 23, 24 and 25 for interrogation.
The court was hearing the anticipatory bail plea of Dileep in a case registered against him and five others for allegedly threatening the officers probing into the sexual assault of an actress in 2017.
Justice Gopinath P directed the accused to fully cooperate with the investigation and directed them to be available for interrogation from 9 AM to 8 PM on the three days.
The court also directed the public prosecutor to submit a report on the interrogation and material evidence in a sealed cover on January 27, when the matter would be heard again.
Besides Dileep, his younger brother P Sivakumar and brother-in-law T N Suraj have moved the court seeking the same relief.
The Crime Branch had, on January 9, registered the case on a complaint filed by an investigating officer based on a purported audio clip of Dileep, which was released by a TV channel in which the actor was allegedly heard conspiring to attack the official.
The actor and five others were booked under various provisions of the IPC, including Sections 116 (abetment), 118 (concealing design to commit offence), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 506 (criminal intimidation), and 34 (criminal act done by several people).
Dileep has claimed that this apprehension was borne out of the past conduct of the complainant officer who has been trying to falsely implicate him in the sexual assault case.
The actress who has worked in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films was abducted and allegedly molested in her car for two hours by some of the accused, who had forced their way into the vehicle on the night of February 17, 2017 and later escaped in a busy area. The entire act was filmed by some of the accused to blackmail the actress.
There are 10 accused in the case and initially, police arrested seven people. Dileep was arrested subsequently and released on bail later. -- PTI
16:41 60% Covid deaths in 3rd wave among unvaccinated: Study
A study by a private hospital has said that 60 per cent of the patients who died during the current wave of COVID-19 pandemic were either partially or fully unvaccinated.
The study by Max Healthcare said the deaths reported were largely among those aged over 70 and those suffering from multiple co-morbidities such as kidney diseases, heart diseases, diabetes, cancers etc.
"In our hospitals, out of 82 deaths so far, 60 per cent was seen in the partially or unvaccinated population," it said in a statement.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain has also been stressing that the fatalities are occurring among those patients who are immunocompromised and have co-morbidities.
The comparative study of the three waves of the pandemic also said that only 23.4 per cent of the patients required oxygen support during the third wave of the pandemic, as against 74 per cent during the second wave and 63 per cent during the first wave.
Across the network of hospitals, there have been 41 admissions of minors.
"However, no deaths have been reported in this age-group. Seven required paediatric ICU while two were on ventilators," it said.
The hospital said that when Delhi had logged 28,000 cases during the second wave in April, all hospital beds were occupied with zero ICU beds available, while during this wave when a higher number of cases was reported last week, there was no crisis of availability of hospital beds.
The hospital admissions to the facility during the first, second and third waves stand at 20,883, 12,444 and 1378 respectively, said the report.
ICU admissions stood at 45.9 per cent during the third wave as opposed to 34 per cent and 35 per cent in the second and first wave.
"One must note that this sample is biased as Max Healthcare caters to tertiary and quaternary care and we receive a significant number of critical patients referred to us. -- PTI
16:08 No response from BJP, JD-U to go solo in UP
With the Bharatiya Janata Party cold to its alliance proposal for the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, the Janata Dal-United on Saturday announced a list of 26 seats from where it will contest and said the party will field its candidates in at least 51 constituencies.
Addressing a press conference, JD-U president Lalan Singh lamented that his party would have fought the Uttar Pradesh polls with more strength and on more seats if it had not waited so long after Union Minister R C P Singh, the regional party's nominee in the central government, had initially conveyed that the BJP was agreeable to an alliance.
He repeatedly mentioned that it was R C P Singh who was authorised by the JD-U leadership to speak to BJP leaders, and any other person was not part of it.
Lalan Singh said that his party waited for so long at the instance of the Union minister, and it was now going ahead with the decision to fight the polls independently after BJP president J P Nadda said publicly that his party's allies in Uttar Pradesh are Apna Dal and Nishad Party and made no mention of the JD-U.
R C P Singh was considered a close confidant of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the preeminent JD-U leader, but speculation has been rife about his falling stock in the party after he became the lone party member to be given a place in the Modi government.
He was then JD-U president and made way for Lalan Singh after becoming a Union minister.
Lalan Singh said his party has authorised its Uttar Pradesh chief Anoop Patel to name candidates and fight on more than 51 seats if he seems fit. -- PTI
15:53 Hope for peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue between India and Pak: UN
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said that he hopes the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan can be solved peacefully.
"Well, the position of the UN and the resolutions that were taken are the same, remain the same. We have, as you know, a peacekeeping operation there. We are, of course, committed," Guterres said on Friday.
"I'd offered my good offices several times, and we hope that this is something that can be solved peacefully and that the situation in Kashmir is a situation in which human rights are respected and in which people can live in peace and security," he said.
Guterres was responding to a question by a Pakistani journalist on the Kashmir issue during a press conference at United Nations.
New Delhi has been categorically rejecting any scope for third party mediation between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, saying that India's stand has been clear for decades and the two countries can discuss the issue bilaterally.
Guterres, in an August 2019 statement, had recalled the 1972 Agreement on bilateral relations between India and Pakistan -- the Simla Agreement.
The Simla Agreement was signed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistan President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972 and is a bilateral agreement between the countries and rejects any third-party mediation on the Kashmir issue.
The 1972 Simla agreement provides that the resolution of differences between the parties should be resolved by peaceful means and by bilateral negotiations.
Tensions between India and Pakistan spiked after India abrogated provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution, revoking the special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcating the state into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019. The move evoked strong reaction from Pakistan.
India has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 was an internal matter and also advised Pakistan to accept the reality.
India has repeatedly told Pakistan that Jammu and Kashmir "was, is and shall forever" remain an integral part of the country.
New Delhi has also told Islamabad that it desires normal neighbourly relations with it in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence. -- PTI
15:39 Arnold Schwarzenegger involved in car crash, escapes unhurt
Veteran Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger escaped unhurt after he was involved in a car crash in Los Angeles.
The four-vehicle crash happened late Friday afternoon and sent a woman to the hospital with minor injuries, Schwarzenegger's spokesperson confirmed.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the 74-year-old star and former California governor was driving his car when it was involved in a crash with another vehicle at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Allenford Avenue, near the Riveria Country Club here.
Two other cars in the intersection were also struck as a result of the collision, the outlet reported.
Paramedics transported a woman who suffered a head abrasion to the hospital, according to a Los Angeles Police Department statement.
Schwarzenegger's spokesperson confirmed the actor was unhurt and was only concerned about the woman who was injured. He stayed at the scene and checked on her. He later spoke with firefighters and police.
There were no indications of drugs or alcohol being involved in the crash but an investigation is still under way, the LAPD said.
A native of Austria, Schwarzenegger was a champion body builder and later became a Hollywood star in the 1980s. Some of his hit films include Conan the Barbarian, Commando, Terminator, Total Recall and True Lies. -- PTI
15:27 Congress fields 70% fresh faces in UP polls
Making a conscious effort to shun the old baggage and present her party in a 'new avatar' in Uttar Pradesh, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has hand-picked over 70 per cent new faces among the total 166 candidates for the high-stakes state assembly election.
Besides sticking to her promise of 40 per cent women candidates, Gandhi has overwhelmingly given a chance to debutants with an aim to build a new leadership in the Hindi heartland, which had slipped from the party hands in recent years.
Uttar Pradesh is scheduled to have seven-phase polls for the 403 assembly constituencies beginning from February 10.
The results will be out on March 10.
Of the total 166 names declared so far by the Congress, 119 candidates will be making their electoral debut, party spokesman Anshu Awasthi told PTI.
With the candidature of Sangeeta Tyagi, wife of party leader late Rajiv Tyagi, from Sahibabad seat, Gandhi has made an earnest effort to break the mould and create new leadership in the century-old party which has faded into political oblivion.
"Priyanka Gandhi has made an attempt to bring all those fighting on people's issues, be it regarding women, youth, farmers, backwards or dalits, to the forefront," Awasthi said.
He said the list of candidates gives a clear vision of the party's effort to give a new direction to the state politics which has been suffering from caste and religion-based politics for years. -- PTI
15:08 Former PM Deve Gowda tests Covid positive
Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda has tested positive for COVID-19, sources close to him said.
"He has tested positive for COVID-19 but he is asymptomatic. However, he is admitted to Manipal Hospital," the sources told PTI.
The Janata Dal-Secular supremo chose to get admitted to hospital as a precaution, the sources added.
The sources further said Gowda's wife Chennamma is negative for coronavirus and is at home.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has wished Gowda a speedy recovery.
"I wish former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda a speedy recovery from coronavirus infection and to continue his work as usual," Bommai tweeted.
Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar too prayed to God for the speedy recovery of Gowda.
He further said he is in touch with the doctors treating the former prime minister and getting updates about his health. -- PTI
14:13 Denied ticket, ex-Goa CM Parsekar to quit BJP
Former Goa chief minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Laxmikant Parsekar, who was denied ticket by the party for the next month's state ssembly elections, on Saturday said he will resign from the ruling party.
The 65-year-old leader said he does not wish to remain in the party and will formally submit his resignation by this evening.
Parsekar currently heads the BJP's manifesto committee for the upcoming Goa elections and is also a member of the party's core committee.
The BJP has nominated sitting MLA Dayanand Sopte from Mandrem assembly segment, which Parsekar had represented between 2002 and 2017. Sopte had defeated Parsekar in the 2017 state polls as a Congress candidate, but joined the ruling party in 2019 along with nine other leaders.
"As of now, I have decided to resign. What I should be doing next, would be decided later," Parsekar said.
He said that Sopte has been neglecting the original BJP workers in Mandrem, due to which there is large-scale resentment among them.
Parsekar was the chief minister of Goa between 2014 and 2017. He was selected to head the state after the then chief minister Manohar Parrikar was inducted into the Union cabinet as the Defence Minister.
The BJP has announced its first list of 34 candidates for the February 14 Goa Assembly elections. There are total 40 seats in the state. -- PTI
14:10 Rahul Gandhi terms Mumbai fire 'tragic', urges Cong workers extend help
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday condoled with the families of those who died in a fire in Mumbai.
He wished a speedy recovery to the injured and urged party workers to provide assistance to the affected.
"The tragic news of fire in a Mumbai high rise is disturbing. My condolences to the family of those who've lost their lives. Wishing a speedy recovery to the injured," Gandhi said in a Facebook post.
"I appeal to Congress workers to be of every possible assistance," he said.
At least seven people died and 16 others were reported injured in a massive fire that broke out this morning in a Mumbai high-rise.
The fire reportedly broke out on the 18th floor of Kamla Building opposite Gandhi Hospital at Gowalia Tank in city's Tardeo area.
Video clips shared on social media showed a plume of dense smoke bellowing from the top of the building. Rescue work is still on. -- PTI
14:07 Lata Mangeshkar showing signs of improvement, still in ICU: doctor
Singing legend Lata Mangeshkar is showing signs of improvement but remains in the ICU, her doctor said on Saturday.
The 92-year-old singer tested positive for coronavirus with mild symptoms and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the Breach Candy Hospital in south Mumbai on January 8.
Sharing the health update, associate professor Dr Pratit Samdani from the Breach Candy Hospital told PTI, "She is showing signs of improvement. She is in the ICU. It is difficult to say for how many days she will be in the hospital."
Anusha Srinivsan Iyer, a close friend of the family, also said the veteran singer is doing well.
"Lata Didi is showing signs of improvement from before and is under treatment in the ICU from the amazing team of doctors spearheaded by Dr Pratit Samdani. We are looking forward and praying for her speedy healing and coming back home," Iyer said in a statement.
On Friday, rumours started doing the rounds on social media that Mangeshkar's health had deteriorated.
Iyer had dismissed the rumours and said, "A sincere appeal. Please do not give wind to any false news...The family and the doctors need their space. Let us pray for Lata Didi's speedy recovery and return home."
Regarded as one of Indian cinema's greatest singers, Mangeshkar started her career at the age of 13 in 1942 and has over 30,000 songs to her credit in several Indian languages.
The singer -- known as Melody Queen of India -- has been lauded with numerous awards and honours including the Padma Bhushan, the Padma Vibhushan and the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, and multiple National Film Awards.
She is also a recipient of the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour. -- PTI
13:17 Punjab Cong wants Channi as CM face, top brass differs
There is a growing clamour within the Punjab Congress over the need to declare a chief ministerial candidate for next month's assembly polls, with many senior leaders throwing their weight behind Charanjit Singh Channi, the state's first chief minister from the schedule caste community.
Though the Congress high command has so far maintained that the party will fight the February 20 elections to the 117-member assembly under a "collective leadership", many leaders in its state unit are seeking that the air surrounding the issue be cleared at the earliest.
The party had declared its chief ministerial candidate ahead of the elections in 2012 and 2017, senior leader and minister Brahm Mohindra said, adding that Channi has proved himself in the role in just three months.
"There should not be any confusion in the party about announcing the CM candidate when there is already one who has proved himself beyond everybody's expectations," he said.
Channi became chief minister last year after Amarinder Singh was made to resign from the post by the Congress.
The clamour on the issue grows in the Congress' state unit in the backdrop of the Aam Aadmi Party, which is emerging as strong contender for the polls, declaring its MP and state unit chief Bhagwant Mann as its chief ministerial candidate.
The Shiromani Akali Dal, which has been the Congress' main rival, may not have formally named its candidate for the chief minister's post, but its president Sukhbir Singh Badal is the likely choice.
The need to declare a chief ministerial candidate becomes more important for the Congress as the AAP has named Bhagwant Mann as its candidate, while the SAD are projecting Sukhbir Badal for the post, Mohindra said.
Mohindra's cabinet colleague Rana Gurjeet Singh has too thrown his weight behind Channi, saying raising a question mark about his continuation as chief minister, after the party comes back to power, can prove to suicidal.
"Channi has done an exceedingly outstanding job in just three months," Rana Gurjeet Singh said.
Cabinet minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Shahkot MLA Hardev Singh Laddi Sherowalia are also backing the idea of having Channi as chief ministers if the party succeed in the polls.
However, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, who was in Chandigarh this week, while replying to a question on the issue, said, "Sidhu ji Punjab Congress ke sardar hain (Navjot Singh Sidhu is Punjab Congress chief), Channi ji government ke sardar hain (Channi is chief minister), and we will contest elections under collective leadership."
A survey 'Who should be the CM face of the Congress in Punjab?' on Twitter by Nikhil Alva, an aide of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, shows that Channi is the choice with maximum 68.7 per cent of the total 1,283 voters in the survey responding in his favour.
While this may not be a party survey, but it also showed that 11.5 per cent voters batted for Sidhu followed by 9.3 per cent in favour of Sunil Jakhar while 10.4 per cent said there was no need for a chief ministerial candidate.
12:55 Ready to withdraw from poll race if...: Utpal Parrikar
Utpal Parrikar, son of late Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar, who quit the Bharatiya Janata Party and announced to contest next month's Goa assembly elections from Panaji as an independent, has said that quitting the party was the "most difficult" decision, but he is ready to withdraw from the poll race if the saffron party fields a "good candidate" from the constituency.
Parrikar was denied ticket by the BJP from Panaji, a constituency which his father and party veteran had represented for more than two decades.
Upset over the decision, Parrikar on Friday quit the BJP and said he would fight the February 14 elections from the Panaji seat as an independent.
The BJP has nominated from Panaji its sitting MLA Atanasio Monserrate, one of ten legislators who had joined the saffron party in July 2019 after quitting Congress.
Monserrate is facing criminal cases, including a case of rape of a minor.
Talking to PTI on Saturday, Utpal, the elder son of Manohar Parrikar, said the BJP is always in his heart and he is fighting for the party's soul.
He said the decision to quit the party was not easy for him.
"It was the most difficult decision. All this while I was hoping that I won't have to take such a decision," he said.
He said he was trying to avoid this kind of a situation (where he had to resign and contest as an independent).
"I am not happy that I had to take this decision, but some times you have to take tough decisions. But I am ready to withdraw the decision if the party fields a good candidate from Panaji," he said.
Without elaborating much, Parrikar claimed that the denial of ticket to him is similar to the 1994 situation when attempts were made to throw his father out of the party.
"The one who has been witness to the history will understand what I am saying. It was the time when the BJP was trying to establish itself in areas where the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party was prominent," he said.
"Those who have been with the party since then will know what I am saying. That time, Manohar Parrikar could not be thrown out because he enjoyed the support of the people," he said, adding that those people (who were against his father) are still in the party holding "high positions", while a person like him is "with the people".
Referring to the 2019 Panaji by-election, which was necessitated due to the death of his father, he recalled that he was denied ticket even at that time.
"I was denied ticket despite having the support. I believed in the party institution and respected the decision," he said.
Parrikar said that the BJP as an organisation is "crumbling" in Goa. -- PTI
12:19 Clubhouse app chat case: Man held from Lucknow
The Delhi Police has arrested an 18-year-old man from Lucknow in connection with a chat on the Clubhouse app in which objectionable and abusive comments were passed against women, officials said on Saturday.
Police said that a team was sent to Lucknow and Rahul Kapoor, who registered himself with the user-ID 'Bismillah' on the app, was apprehended.
Kapoor claims that he created an audio chat room on Clubhouse on the instructions of a person, he identified as 'Sallos', Deputy Commissioner of Police KPS Malhotra said.
The officer said Kapoor also told the team that he handed over the chat room's moderator key to 'Sallos'.
The 18-year-old's mobile phone has been seized and he will be joining investigations at Delhi by evening, police said.
Further details are awaited. -- PTI
11:16 Discontent brews up in Uttarakhand BJP
Denial of tickets has left powerful contenders in the Bharatiya Janata Party seething with discontent with several of them either preparing to cross over to other parties or enter the poll arena as independents.
While a number of those left out are sulking as the party has preferred Congress defectors over dedicated party cadres on many seats in its first list of 59 candidates, a few have come out in the open with their wounded feelings.
The most notable of them are the sitting MLA from Tharali Munni Devi Shah and Dwarahat MLA Mahesh Negi.
"The central party leadership must explain why it has denied a ticket to me. I have done considerable development work in my constituency besides taking the achievements of the central and state governments to the people," Shah said.
She said she would not be as hurt if the party had fielded a dedicated party worker from the seat but it preferred someone from Congress background.
"It has broken the morale of party workers," Shah, who won the seat in a bypoll in 2018 following the death of her husband and sitting MLA from the constituency Magan Lal Shah, said.
She said she is under pressure from her supporters and may enter the fray as an independent from the seat from where the BJP has fielded Bhopal Ram Tamta, a Congress defector.
Negi, who had been accused of rape in September 2020, said he has been denied a ticket under a conspiracy.
He said his name was at the top in all organisational surveys still he could not make it.
Om Gopal Rawat, who was a strong ticket contender for Narendra Nagar seat from where the BJP has once again fielded cabinet minister Subodh Uniyal, is planning to join the Congress.
"BJP does not care for dedicated party workers who toil at the grassroots to strengthen the organisation. It has no principles or values. All it wants is power," Rawat said.
Former MLA Mahavir Rangad too is unhappy with Pritam Singh Panwar fielded by BJP from Dhanaulti.
He took the opinion of party workers on Friday and said he will contest as an independent.
Contender from Ghansali, Darshan Lal has also decided to enter poll fray as an independent.
Tika Maikhuri, who had long been trying for a ticket from Karnaprayag, has also threatened to enter the poll arena as an independent since the party fielded Anil Nautiyal from the seat.
Manoj Shah in Bhimtal has threatened to quit as the party has fielded Ram Singh Kaira, the independent sitting MLA from the seat, who joined the BJP late last year.
"I am in the race for a ticket from the seat since 2002. Denying me a ticket is an injustice. I will contest as an independent," he said.
Aware of the mood within the party, the BJP says the discontent is only natural and the bitterness will subside in a couple of days.
"There can be many contenders for a ticket from a seat but it can be given only to one after taking into account all aspects. Everyone should accept the decision of the central leadership, BJP president Madan Kaushik said. BJP is a disciplined party. It is just their initial reaction. I have confidence that they will understand," he said.
The party has begun efforts to pacify disaffected leaders with promises of position within the organisation, fearing eclipsing of chances of official BJP nominees if they enter the poll arena. -- PTI
10:18 India logs 3,37,704 new Covid cases, 488 deaths
India added 3,37,704 new coronavirus infections taking the total tally of COVID-19 cases to 3,89,03,731, which includes 10,050 cases of the Omicron variant, according to Union health ministry data updated on Saturday.
The active cases have increased to 21,13,365, the highest in 237 days, while the death toll has climbed to 4,88,884 with 488 fresh fatalities, the data updated at 8 am stated.
There has been a 3.69 per cent increase in Omicron cases since Friday, the ministry said.
The active cases comprise 5.43 per cent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has decreased to 93.31 per cent, the ministry said.
The daily positivity rate was recorded at 17.22 per cent while the weekly positivity rate was recorded at 16.65 per cent.
The data stated that 71.34 crore tests have been conducted so far and 19,60,954 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours.
So far, 161.16 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered, it said India's COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 2020, 30 lakh on August 23, 40 lakh on September 5 and 50 lakh on September 16.
It went past 60 lakh on September 28, 70 lakh on October 11, crossed 80 lakh on October 29, 90 lakh on November 20 and surpassed the one-crore mark on December 19, 2020.
India crossed two crore cases on May 4 and three crore cases on June 23 last year. -- PTI
09:51 Not saying I'm the CM face, Priyanka clarifies
Striking a different note, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has said she is not the only face of the party for Uttar Pradesh assembly polls and her remarks at a press conference on Friday about being the face of the party were made in a 'slight exaggerated way' in response to repeated queries from the media on the issue.
In an exclusive interview with ANI, she also said that the party decides who will be the chief ministerial candidate and in some states, no such decision is taken.
"Main ye nahi keh rahi hun ki main he chehra hun. Vo to maine thoda badh ke kah diya kyunki baar, baar aap log yahi sawal kar rahe hain. (I am not saying that I am the only face, I said that in a slightly exaggerated way because you keep asking the question time and again)," Priyanka Gandhi told ANI.
"There are so many states and they have in-charges whether it is Congress or BJP. Do you ask them whether they are chief ministerial face or not? Why don't you ask them? Why is this question being put to me?" she asked.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is in-charge of poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, had made a clear indication at a press conference at All India Congress Committee headquarters on Friday that she is the party's face in Uttar Pradesh elections.
She said: "Aapko kisi aur ka chehra dikh raha hai Congress party ki taraf se? To phir? Ab dikh tho raha hai na sab jagah mera chehra. (Are you seeing any other face in Uttar Pradesh from Congress? Then? My face is visible everywhere)."
She had also said at the press conference that no decision has been taken on her fighting the Uttar Pradesh polls.
"When it is decided, you will get to know. We haven't made a decision on it yet," she had said in an interview with ANI.
Asked if there was hesitation about declaring the party's chief ministerial candidate in Uttar Pradesh, she said 'where is the hesitation'.
"Our party decides the face of the chief minister at some places, at some places we do not. This is the manner of our party, there is no hesitation."
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav have decided to contest the elections whereas Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati took a decision early this month to not contest the upcoming elections. -- ANI
08:53 Tried to convince Utpal Parrikar: BJP candidate
Atanasio Monserrate, who is a Bharatiya Janata Party candidate on Panaji seat, said on Friday that the party tried its level best to convince Utpal Parrikar, son of former Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar, requesting him to contest from any constituency.
Speaking to ANI, Monserrate said, "The party tried its level best to convince him (Utpal Parrikar). I am sure that if his father (former Goa CM Manohar Parrikar) was alive, he would have never allowed this thing to happen."
Utpal Parrikar has decided to contest the election as an independent candidate and resigned from the party.
Earlier, Shiv Sena had said that if Utpal is contesting the election as an Independent, then they would support him.
On this, Monserrate said, "Shiv Sena does not have a base in Goa. They had tried their luck earlier also but they could not make any dent in Goa." - ANI
01:16 Lakhimpur: 4 charged with lynching BJP workers
A Special Investigation Team probing the Lakhimpur Kheri violence on Friday filed a charge sheet against four people in connection with the lynching of two Bharatiya Janata Party workers and a car driver.
Two FIRs were registered after the incident in October last year.
In the first FIR, Union minister Ajay Mishra's son and around 15 to 20 people have been accused of mowing down four farmers and a journalist during a protest over the visit of UP Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya.
The second FIR was lodged by one Sumit Jaiswal against unidentified people, alleging that they lynched two BJP workers and a driver during the violence on October 3.
Senior Prosecuting Officer (SPO) SP Yadav said, 'On Friday, police filed a chargesheet in FIR No. 220/2021 against four accused in the court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (ACJM) Mona Singh.'
The police filed chargesheet against four accused, identified as Vichitra Singh, Gurvinder Singh, Kamaljeet Singh and Gurpreet Singh, he said.
'Final reports in respect of three persons Ranjeet Singh, Sonu, alias Kanwaljeet Singh, and Avtar Singh have been submitted under Section 169 of the CrPC and their release orders are being issued,' he said.
Yadav said among the four against whom the charge sheet has been filed, Sections 109, 114, 426, 436 and 506 of the IPC have been invoked against Vichitra Singh while Sections 143, 147, 148, 149, 302, 323, 325, 427, 436 and 504 have been invoked against Gurvinder Singh, Kamaljeet Singh and Gurpreet Singh.
The violence in Tikunia village of Lakhimpur Kheri had claimed eight lives, including four farmers, a journalist, two BJP workers and a driver. -- PTI