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Friday, December 31, 2010

25 paise and below coins not acceptable from June 30

December 30, 2010

New Delhi: Come June 30, 50 paise will be the minimum coin accepted in the markets as all denominations below it will cease to be legal currency. "From this date, these coins (denomination of 25 paise and below) shall cease to be a legal tender for payment as well as on account," the Finance Ministry said in a statement Thursday.

It further said that the minimum denomination coin acceptable for transaction will be 50 paise from that date.

Also, the entries in books of accounts, pricing of products, services and taxes should be rounded off to 50 paise or whole rupee from that date. "The procedure for call in shall be notified separately by the Reserve Bank of India," it added.

Lookout circular for Citibank manager accused of multi-crore fraud

December 30, 2010

Gurgaon: A Citibank manager accused of cheating investors of what is now said to be Rs.200 crore after promising to double their money continues to be on the run, police said Wednesday, a day after one of India's biggest banking frauds came to light.

The Gurgaon police has so far sealed 81 bank accounts of different banks into which Shivraj Puri, the bank's relationship manager here had transferred money.

"At least Rs.200 crore have been transferred from Puri's account to these 81 accounts," Gurgaon Police Commissioner S.S. Deswal said.

Haryana Police has issued a lookout circular for Puri after failing to track him down.

His passport details have been sent to all international airports in the country to prevent him from fleeing, said a police officer in this upscale satellite town adjoining the Indian capital.

Puri reportedly managed to con high net worth investors after forging Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) documents purportedly offering lucrative returns which he said enjoyed Citibank's backing.

Of the sealed 81 accounts, three are in the State Bank of India in the name of his relatives, 18 in Citibank and remaining 60 in different banks.

SEBI has denied the existence of schemes made popular by Puri.

Since the task of opening new accounts had been assigned to Puri, he managed to dupe several people without the bank's knowledge.

In the process, he opened as many as 18 accounts in various banks and asked those who fell into his trip to put their money in them.

Police and bank sources had initially estimated that he duped people of over Rs.100 crore before he was busted this week, unveiling one of the biggest frauds in the Indian banking industry in recent times.

Police said they had recovered Rs.3.85 crore of the duped money.

Some of the accounts he opened were in the Gurgaon branch of Citibank and in the name of his relatives Premnath, Sheela and Deeksha.

"Initial investigation has revealed he opened 18 accounts and transferred huge amounts. We have recovered Rs.3.85 crore and are investigating the involvement of his three relatives," a police officer said.

But police are baffled because none of the victims of the fraud has come forward to claim the money.

Citibank has said it too was investigating the mammoth fraud but assured customers that their money was safe.

"We recently initiated an investigation into a certain set of suspicious transactions based on documents forged by an employee involving a few accounts in our Gurgaon branch. We immediately reported the matter to all the relevant regulatory and law enforcement authorities," a spokesperson said.

"This issue does not impact other accounts, transactions or customers of the bank," the official added.

Cases of cheating and forgery have been registered at the DLF Phase 2 police station. The Gurgaon police commissioner has constituted five police teams to solve the case.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Four Lashkar terrorists who entered Mum could be foreigners'

24 Dec 2010

Mumbai: Four alleged members of Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), who sneaked into the city to carry out 'violent' attacks, could be 'foreigners' and are believed to have infiltrated into the country from the Bangladeshi border, police said. 'The nationality of the four terrorists could not be ascertained yet, but they do not appear to be Indians. They could be from other country or countries,' Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjeev Dayal told PTI. The city police yesterday said that four suspected LeT operatives have sneaked into Mumbai recently to carry out 'violent' attacks with the aim of causing 'destruction' ahead of Christmas and New Year celebrations.

'The four jihadis were identified as Abdul Kareem Moosa, Noor Abu Ilahi, Walid Jinnah and Mahfooz Alam. The four recently sneaked into the city to carry out extremely dangerous activities,' Joint Police Commissioner (Crime) Himanshu Roy had told reporters last night. Roy had released a sketch of Jinnah and issued an advisory to the citizens of the metropolis to remain alert. Sources said they had received information that the LeT operatives had sneaked into the country through the
borders of Bangladesh. 'There is also a possibility that Jinnah could have changed his appearance, as his sketch was released. They were co-ordinating with the state and central intelligence agencies to track them down,' said a senior police official, requesting anonymity.

On Tuesday, the Centre sounded a terror alert for Mumbai and Ahmedabad following specific Intelligence inputsthat the LeT teams may have entered the two cities to carry out strikes.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Karunakaran was a kingmaker in national politics: Antony

Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 23: Defence Minister A.K. Antony paid glowing tributes to departed Congress leader K. Karunakaran Thursday, describing him as a kingmaker in national politics.

Four-time chief minister of Kerala, Karunakaran passed away Thursday evening at 5.30 p.m. at a private hospital here.

'At one point of time, Karunakaran went on to be a kingmaker of national politics, such was his stature,' said Antony.

Antony arrived at Karunakaran's home late in the evening to pay his tributes.

'I am sad that I was not able to see him after he was admitted to the hospital. I reached here cancelling a programme that I had when I learned that he was serious. I reached two hours late and hence could not see him.

'I first came in contact with Karunakaran 46 years back when I was elected as the Kerala Students Union president and since then, we have had a long and enduring relationship. It is true that at times we have had differences of opinion but even during that time, we had the best of personal relations and we made sure that there was always a mutual respect,' said Antony.

'I always believed that Karunakaran was one who led the party from the front in the state. I used to meet him every time I came to the city,' he added.

Antony occupied the Kerala chief minister's post thrice and also replaced Karunakaran on two occasions following political developments.

Kerala mourns as ’Leader’ departs, cremation Saturday

Thiruvananthapuram: Veteran Congress leader K. Karunakaran, a four-time chief minister of Kerala who was a pale shadow of his original self in his final days, died here Thursday evening of old age and illness, enveloping the entire state in sorrow.

Despite rains, thousands poured on to the streets as the body of the 92-year-old was taken from the Ananthapuri Hospital, where he was admitted Dec 10, to his home less than 10 km away in a closed ambulance as news of his death spread rapidly.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi will visit Kerala Friday to pay homage to a man who once rubbed shoulders with Jawaharlal Nehru and was a confidant of Indira Gandhi, a closeness that made him Kerala's undisputed Congress leader. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will attend the cremation Saturday.

The Marxist-led Kerala government announced a public holiday Friday. The cremation will take place in his hometown Thrissur Christmas day Saturday, the event expected to draw a mass of people from all over Kerala.

Karunakaran's condition deteriorated last week and he was put on the ventilator. His condition improved in a few days but he suffered a stroke Wednesday. He died at 5.30 p.m. Thursday. He is survived by his politician son K. Muraleedharan and daughter Padmaja Venugopal.

As Congress leaders described his death as a huge loss to the party, Marxist Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan rushed to the hospital to salute a man he had politically opposed all his life.

"He was a leader who relentlessly worked for the development of Kerala, and his attachment to the ordinary worker was something that was unique to him," Achuthanandan said.

So thick was the rush of mourners that the chief minister had to struggle to enter the hospital. Later, as the body was taken to his home, the rains began to batter the city, drenching everyone.

K.M. Mani, who served in all his four cabinets, said it was amazing to see Karunakaran handle crisis moments.

"It was a thing that made him a great leader because at times of crisis he always appeared to be a man of great determination," said Mani, who heads the Kerala Congress (Mani).

On Friday, his body would be taken to the Congress office and kept at the Durbar Hall at the State Secretariat for people to pay homage.

Born in Kannur July 5, 1918, Karunakaran tasted his first electoral victory in in 1945 when he was elected to the Trissur Municipal Council on a Congress ticket.

He was elected to the Kerala assembly seven times consecutively from Mala in Trissur, from 1967 to 1991. He was a minister, leader of the opposition thrice, chief minister four times, and was elected to the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha thrice and twice respectively.

Karunakaran survived two serious road accidents in the 1990s, one of which needed treatment in the US.

But even as he built up the Congress in Kerala, making it a formidable opponent of the well-entrenched Communists, no party leader could rise in the state unless minus Karunakaran's blessings.

His main rival in the Congress was A.K. Antony, now the defence minister.
He groomed more than three dozen Congress leaders including the present state party president, Ramesh Chennithala.

His first major setback came when he had to resign as chief minister a month after taking charge following a judicial stricture over the death of a young man accused of being a Maoist, post-Emergency.

The disappearance of Rajan, the engineering college student, haunted Karunakaran for the rest of his life.

He had to quit as chief minister again in March 1995 when his name was linked to a police official in what was known as the "ISRO spy scandal".

Karunakaran was the industry minister in the cabinet of P.V. Narasimha Rao.

It was his undisguised love for his son Muraleedharan, who took to politics after failing in business and was elected to the Lok Sabha, that began to turn many Congress members against him.

As rival Antony grew in strength, in New Delhi and Kerala, Karunakaran made political mistakes.

To hurt Antony, he did the unthinkable and supported the Left in a Lok Sabha election. Then, he dramatically dumped the Congress and formed his own party in 2005, with the intention of crossing over to the Left.

That did not happen and he returned to the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). He later merged his party with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), a Left ally.

Finally, Karunakaran returned to the Congress. But his son refused to follow suit and, to his shock, renounced all ties with his father.

From then on, Karunakaran was a broken man. He occasionally visited the Congress office but was no more the giant of a leader that he was for four long decades.

Thiruvananthapuram comes to a halt, political leaders praise Karunakaran

Thiruvananthapuram : Huge crowds thronged the roads outside the hospital where four-time former chief minister K. Karunakaran died and along the route to his home as political leaders cutting across the divide acknowledged his tall stature.

The capital city came to a halt and traffic stopped when the ambulance carrying the body of Karunakaran, who passed away Thursday evening at 5.30 p.m., was taken from the Anathapuri hospital to his home near here.

A large police force found it difficult to control the surging crowds that had gathered at the hospital upon hearing of the demise of the 92-year-old veteran Congressman.

Tears rolled down the cheeks of many people. Senior Congress leaders found it difficult to come near the body of Karunakaran with his ordinary supporters jostling for space to have one last look of the departed leader.

Even Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, who rushed to the hospital on hearing of the demise of his long time political adversary, had a tough time trying to come near the body.

'He was one who relentlessly worked for the development of the state and his attachment with the ordinary worker was something which was unique to him only,' said Achuthanandan.

Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy described Karunakaran as one who was a 'practical politician'.

'My relation with him dates 40 years back when I first arrived as a legislator in the assembly and he was the leader of party. Over the years through his hard work and determination he went on to be the senior most leader in our party. His greatest virtue as I see was his closeness with the ordinary supporter of the party and his loss is a great loss for the country,' said Chandy.

As the body reached his home in the city, the skies opened up. However, that did not deter the massive crowd of supporters who were waiting for the body to arrive.

Left Democratic Front convenor Vaikom Viswan, in his message, said that though he had differences of opinion with the departed leader, one aspect of Karunakaran that made him dear to even his adversaries was the way he used to behave with all.

'His behaviour was exemplary in nature and it was this character of his which won him accolades,' said Viswan.

K.M. Mani, who served in all of Karunakaran's four cabinets, said it was amazing to see him handle crises.

'Karunakaran's greatest ability was to come out unscathed from any crisis, and it was the thing that made him a great leader because in times of crisis he always appeared to be a man of great determination,' recalled Mani who heads the Kerala Congress (Mani).

R. Balakrishnan Pillai, a veteran Kerala politician who was close to Karunakaran and was in three of his cabinets, described him as a leader with a vision who used his Delhi connections for the development of the state.

'He was the one who virtually single handedly guided the Congress party when it went through bad times,' said Pillai.

The cremation will be held in his home town in Thrissur Saturday morning, president of the Congress' state unit Ramesh Chennithala told reporters outside the hospital where Karunakaran was admitted since Dec 10.

Friday has been declared a public holidy, and Saturday is a holiday on account of Christmas.

'The body would be taken to his home and Friday morning it would be taken to the Congress party office. From there it would be kept at the Durbar Hall at the State Secretariat and in the afternoon It would be taken through the national highway to Thrissur. The cremation would take place at the same place where his wife has been laid to rest,' a tearful Chennithala said.

The 92-year-old veteran leader's condition deteriorated last week and he was put on the ventilator.

He recovered a few days later and was removed from the ventilator, but his condition worsened Wednesday morning and he suffered a stroke. He breathed his last at 5.30 p.m. Thursday.

Sonia, Chidambaram pay homage to Karunakaran

Thiruvananthapuram: A steady stream of mourners led by Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Friday paid homage to veteran Congress leader K Karunakaran at his residence here where his mortal remains are kept.

The UPA Chairperson, accompanied by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, placed a wreath and paid her respects to
Karunakaran, who passed away at a private hospital on Thursday after a prolonged illness. Gandhi spoke to Karunakaran's politician son Muraleedharan and daughter Padmaja Venugopal and conveyed her condolences.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is scheduled to attend the funeral, Congress sources said.Union Ministers A K Antony, Vayalar Ravi, and other senior Congress leaders from the state paid their respects to the departed leader.Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to arrive in Thrissur Saturday where the veteran leader is to be cremated.

Sonia, who reached the capital along with Chidambaram in a special flight at 10 am, was welcomed by union ministers Vayalar Ravi, Mullapally Ramachandran and KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala at the airport.

At 8.15 a.m. Friday, his body was moved to the party headquarters where a huge crowd was waiting to have a last glimpse of the veteran. Karunakaran's body will be taken to the Durbar Hall in the State Secretariat.

By noon, his journey began to his hometown Thrissur where he will be cremated Saturday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to attend the last rites.

Party officials said all efforts are being made to see that the funeral procession makes brief stops at major towns like Kollam, Alappuzha and Ernakulam for people to pay their respects.

As a mark of respect to the departed leader, the state government has declared a public holiday Friday and all university and state public service examinations and interviews has been postponed.

Karunakaran's condition deteriorated last week and he was put on the ventilator. His condition improved in a few days but he suffered a stroke Wednesday. He died at 5.30 p.m. Thursday. He is survived by his politician son K. Muraleedharan and daughter Padmaja Venugopal.

Karunakaran's death has cast a shadow of sorrow on Kerala, almost eclipsing the Christmas spirit and joy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Terror originating from Pakistan unacceptable to world: Sarkozy

Dec 7, 2010

MUMBAI: Promising to be with India to ensure justice in 26/11, French President Nicolas Sarkozy Tuesday said New Delhi had shown remarkable restraint after the attack. He emphasized it was unacceptable for terror to originate from Pakistan.

"I want to tell you that we will never forget (the terrorist attack on Mumbai) and will be with India so that justice is rendered," he said at a 26/11 commemorative function in Oberoi-Trident Hotel here.

"The Mumbai attack proved one more time that terrorism is nothing but criminal activity. It pretends to act for political or religious objectives, but it is just savagery. It pretends to serve ideals but it injures them through its acts," Sakozy said in French.

Terrorists from Pakistan sneaked into Mumbai in November 2008 and went on a killing spree, leaving at least 166 people dead. Many of them were foreigners and included two French nationals. The Oberoi-Trident hotel was also attacked.

Sarkozy said, "We know of the price the Pakistan population is paying for terrorism but it is not acceptable for the world that terrorist attacks originate from or (terrorists) are trained in Pakistan."

He also praised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for showing restraint after the Mumbai strike.

"The Indian prime minister has shown remarkable restraint following the attack and is continuing the dialogue with Pakistan and has tenaciously created the politics of dialogue, which France supports," said Sarkozy.

"For us all who are explicitly threatened by the Al Qaida and its accomplices, it is not enough to protect ourselves from such attacks. We must find a way to prevent them from repeating themselves. It is not acceptable that terrorist groups operating from neighbouring territories are able to threaten the security of India," said Sarkozy.

"It is not acceptable for Afghanistan and our troops in Afghanistan that Taliban and Al Qaida should find refuge in the frontier zones of Pakistan."

While the French president was dressed in a black suit, blue shirt and a navy blue tie, his wife Carla Bruni stood beside him, wearing a white outfit.

Sarkozy said France values its relations with Pakistan. "A Pakistan which is democratic, stable and prosperous, is in the interest of this region and the world," he said.

"France itself has been menaced and blackmailed by Islamist terrorists to whom it will not give in and France has intensified its efforts to eradicate terrorism," he added.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange arrested in London

07 Dec 2010

The founder of the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, Julian Assange, has been arrested by the Metropolitan Police.

The 39-year-old Australian denies allegations he sexually assaulted two women in Sweden.

Scotland Yard said Mr Assange was arrested on a European Arrest Warrant by appointment at a London police station at 0930 GMT.

He is due to appear at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court later.

Mr Assange is accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010.

Monday, December 6, 2010

WikiLeaks: LeT planned to kill Modi, set up bases in south India

06 Dec 2010

Washington: Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), blamed for Mumbai terror attack, had planned to assassinate Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and use Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu as a strike base in southern India, a leaked US diplomatic cable reveals.

A June 19, 2009 secret State Department cable signed (Secretary of State Hillary) Clinton released by whistleblower site WikiLeaks also suggests a dangerously expanding LeT network in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

The cable is marked 'NOFORN', shorthand for not to be shared with foreign governments.

'India - LT member Shafiq Khafa possibly preparing for operations: Tearline reports, & Hussein, an India-based Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LT) member, continued operational planning on three tasks in early June,' the secret intelligence cable relating to terrorist activities around the world read.

'The tasks were associated with a possible operation against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendar Modi, the establishment of a training camp, and unspecified work involving a car. Hussein would coordinate his activities with an India-based colleague identified as Sameer,' it said.

'Separate tearline indicates, &Pakistan-based Shafiq Khafa prepared in mid-June with India-based associate S J for possible operations in India. Khafa was looking for information on possible training sites in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala,' it said.

'19. (S//NF) DS/TIA/ITA notes earlier credible tearline suggests Khafa's network is striving to stand up two teams in southern India that rely on the support of LT members based in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Nepal,' another paragraph of the cable read.

'Although specific details of planned LT attacks remain unknown, late-May intelligence indicates Khafa's cells were engaged in surveillance activities of potential targets, likely in southern India.

'Early-May reporting further suggests Kerala or Tamil Nadu may be used as a base of operations following the establishment of a facilitation team in Sri Lanka, with the estimated time of completion for setting up the facilitation route and camps to be two to three months,' the cable said.

Obama asks Hu to send 'clear message' to North Korea

06 Dec 2010

Washington : US President Barack Obama today asked his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao to 'send a clear message' to North Korea that its provocations like shelling of the South Korean territory were 'unacceptable'.

Obama called Hu to discuss the situation in the Korean peninsula and other international issues.

'The President emphasised the need for North Korea to halt its provocative behaviour and to meet its international obligations, including its commitments in the 2005 Six Party Joint Declaration,' the White House said in a statement issued in the wee hours of Monday.

Hu told Obama that a 'cool and rational' response from all sides is needed on the crisis in the Korean peninsula, Xinhua news agency reported.

The two Presidents discussed their common interest in peace and stability in Northeast Asia and the priority of
ensuring the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

'They agreed on the importance of the United States and China working together toward these shared goals,' the statement said.

During the telephonic call, Obama condemned the North Korean shelling of a South Korean island on November 23 and its pursuit of a uranium enrichment program in defiance of its obligations.

'He urged China to work with us and others to send a clear message to North Korea that its provocations are
unacceptable,' the White House said.

Hu told Obama: 'Under the current situation, it is imperative that the response is cool and rational and that we
firmly prevent a deterioration of the situation,' the foreign ministry quoted Hu as saying.

'Under the current situation, it is very possible that tensions on the Korean peninsula could further escalate and get out of control if not properly handled.' Obama also highlighted the American commitment to the security of our allies in the region, it added. Raising the issue of Iran, Obama stressed the importance of P5+1 unity in order to address Iran's nuclear program, the White House said. PTI

Friday, December 3, 2010

Advani's appeal to government: Concede JPC demand

03 Dec 2010

New Delhi : Stating that the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was indifferent to corruption, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani Thursday appealed to the government to accept the opposition demand for a parliamentary probe into the 2G spectrum allocation and let parliament function smoothly.

'I appeal to the government on behalf of the entire opposition that for the parliament to function smoothly they should concede the demand for JPC,' Advani said at a press conference here as both houses were adjourned for the 15th successive day over the demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe.

The press conference, called to explain the opposition stance on the stalemate, was also attended by his party colleagues Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and S.S. Ahluwalia as well as leaders from the National Democratic Alliance's Janata Dal-United, Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal.

Accusing the government of not being serious about curbing corruption, Advani said 2G spectrum allocation was a 'multi-dimensional scam which undermines democracy'.

'The government is indifferent to the problem of corruption...This is something, NDA feels, has to be fought against because it is not only corroding society but affects the government as a whole,' he said.

He said the NDA had decided to fight against corruption not only in the precincts of parliament but also take the issue to the people. The NDA would hold rallies throughout the country and also invite other opposition parties.

'We have reached a stage at which a crusade at the people's level is needed,' he said.

Advani also alleged that the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) were being used as instruments for achieving political ends.

Taking exception to the way the government had appointed P.J. Thomas as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, overlooking the objections of Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, Advani said the government should take cognisance of Supreme Court observations concerning him in the 2G spectrum case.

He said Thomas should resign.

Accusing the government of not taking steps to bring money of Indians stashed illegally in foreign banks, he said India was among the 14 countries that had not ratified the UN convention of corruption.

Advani admitted that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had its role in examining the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on the 2G spectrum, but could not examine the tapes that had surfaced.

Referring to the conversations of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, excerpts of which have been published in magazines, Advani said business houses had been lobbying to determine who should be a minister and what portfolio he should have.

'The scams that have surfaced now must be probed thoroughly. We think nothing short of JPC can do the task.'

In Advani's view, if the issue of inflation dominated the monsoon session, corruption dominated the winter session.

Referring to the three meetings held to break the deadlock in parliament over the demand for JPC, he said opposition unity on the demand grew firmer with each meeting.

The opposition, he said, was willing to sit extra hours to complete the business if the government conceded the JPC demand.

Big B in Kerala ad an year after party's reservations

03 Dec 2010

Thiruvananthapuram: Nearly an year after the CPI-M central leadership shot down a proposal to make Amitabh Bachchan brand ambassador of Kerala tourism, the Bollywood icon has been prominently featured in an advertisement of the state-sponsored shopping festival alongwith Malayalam's Mohanlal.

The ad issued the other day to mark the inaugural of the Grand Kerala Shopping Festival (GKSF) gives the impression that Bachchan also has become a brand ambassador of the fourth edition of the 46-day event.

The ad showed a scene from military thriller 'Kandahar' co-starring Bachchan and Mohanlal and being directed by Major Ravi of 'Kurukshetra' and 'Kirthichakra' fame.

The commercial termed it as an 'advertisement done for Kerala Government by Lt Col Dr Mohanlal and Ashirwad Max Lab Films.'It showed Mohalal, who is a Lt Colonel in Territorian Army, in mlitary uniform with Bachchan standing beside in civilian clothes.

Earlier,the CPI-M central leadership had come in the way of the state Tourism Department making Bachchan as its brand ambassador on the ground that he had signed a similar contract for Gujarat under the Narendra Modi Government.

When asked about the incongruity, a GKSF official said the ad was released by Ashirwad films with which the event had a contract as one of the main sponsors . 'Any creative matter released by them have to be issued by us under the contract', he said.

The office of state Tourism Minister, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, said the Government had nothing directly to do with the advertisement' 'It is a mere coincidence that the next film of Ashirwad happens to be Kandahar in which Bachchan appears in a lead role', a spokesman for the minister said.

' Linking the earlier episode with the current event twould only create unnecessary cotroversies, in which we are not interested', he said.

About an year back, Bachchan had offered his readiness to be the brand ambassador for Kerala during a television interview.

Taking cue from it, the state Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, who is also CPI-M polit bureau member, wrote to Bachchan inviting him to the assignment. The proposal,however, came under sharp attack from pro-Left cultural circles. With the issue snowballing into a controversy, senior CPI-M leader Sitharam Yechury openly commented against the decision, following which the proposal was shelved.

The GKSF is touted as a major shopping festival to attract both domestic and foreign visitors to buy a variety of things in shops across the state. Over 6000 traders had joined the event, offering various rebates and prizes including 101 Kg of gold.

Organised in partnership with Tourism department,the event had a turn over of Rs 4000 crore last year and it was targetted to increase this year to Rs 5000 crore.PTI

Madani case: 2 people booked

03 Dec 2010

Madikeri : Police Inspector General A S N Murthy today said cases have been booked against two people for entering Kodagu in the guise of journalists and trying to destroy evidence against terrorist Madani.

Addressing reporters here this evening, Mr Murthy said a group of people had visited Kodagu and tried to destroy evidence against terrorist Madani.

The accused had visited Hostota where terrorist Nazir was staying.

Two cases are booked at Somwarpet and Siddapur police stations under section 506 IPC. The district Crime Branch police were asked to investigate, he informed. He said the names of the accused were kept as secret as the investigation was going on.

Superintendent of police Manjunath Annigeri, Dy SP J D Prakash and SI Durga were present.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

NDA gets Thumping majority in Bihar

24 Nov 2010

Patna: The Nitish Kumar-led JD(U)-BJP alliance today bagged 135 seats, 13 more than the simple majority, and was ahead in 70 other places in the 243-member Assembly.

On the other hand, RJD-LJP alliance suffered major reverses bagging only ten seats and leading in 16 other places
against its tally of 64 last time.

Congress too suffered a setback winning three seats and leading in three compared to nine seats it had won in 2005.

The CPI won one seat and others 2.In the Patna Sahib Constituency, BJP minister Nandkishore Yadav won the elections defeating his nearest Congress rival.

In Bettiah, BJP Minister Renu Devi defeated Congress nominee Madan Mohan Tiwari by around 15,000 votes, while in
Chanpatia, Chandramohan Rai of BJP trounced BSP's Ejaj Hussain by over 13,000 votes.

Prabhat Ranjan Singh of JD(U) won the Bagaha seat defeating BSP's Md Kamran by around 20,000 votes.

Among those leading were JD(U) ministers Vijendra Yadav (Supaul), Narendra Narain Yadav JD(U) (Alamgarh), Ram
Parvesh Rai (Barauli) and Hari Prasad Shah (Laukaha) besides BJP minister Ashwini Choubey (Bhagalpur).

State Congress president Choudhury Mehboob Ali Kaiser and state RJD president Abdul Bari Siddique were trailing
behind their JD(U) rivals in Simri-Bakhtiarpur and Alinagar respectively.

In the last elections in 2005, the JD(U)-BJP alliance got 143 seats with JD(U) securing 88 and BJP 55. RJD and LJP
together had 64 seats in the outgoing House. Congress had nine.

Congress gave credit to the chief minister for the ruling combine's success and said law and order in the state
improved under his regime.

The BJP said that the trends indicated that the people's mandate was for development, maintenance of law and
order and good governance.

JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav said, 'I want to thank the people of Bihar. It is their victory. Secondly, it is the
victory of the chief minister and his colleagues.'

Bihar poll results disappointing, says CPI(M)


The CPI(M) today said it was disappointed by the Bihar Assembly poll results.

“Our number of seats have gone down in Bihar Assembly...naturally we are disappointed,” CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat told reporters outside Parliament.

CPI and CPI(M) have so far drawn a blank in the Bihar polls which have been swept by the JD(U)-BJP alliance.

Congratulating JD(U)-BJP on their good performance, she said, “We all congratulate Nitish Kumar for the victory in Bihar. His alliance has made a record victory in Bihar“.

However, Ms. Karat refused to comment on Congress’s poor performance despite the high voltage campaign by Rahul Gandhi.

Taking a dig at the BJP for not removing B S Yeddyurappa for certain “caste consideration” in Karnataka, Ms. Karat said, “In Bihar they (BJP) do not believe in caste combination. Bihar elections have risen above caste and in Karnataka, obviously, they are using certain caste factors to protect somebody who is so corrupt and guilty of wrong-doing.”

Bihar election results: Lalu’s era ends

The latest trends and results have been predicting end of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav’s era in Bihar.

Nitish Kumar’s wave outclassed RJD-LJP and Congress in the state. NDA has been heading towards landslide victory in the Bihar Assembly election 2010.

NDA has won 202 seats while RJD has won 26 seats. The poll results are severe jolt to the Lalu and Ramvilas coalition. In the outgoing assembly, RJD had 54 MLAs but it seems that their representation in the new assembly is sliced down significantly.

Now it is crystal clear that, JD(U)-BJP combination holds the key to form the government in the state.

The mandate is clear that, Lalu’s caste politics has been completely rejected by the Bihar voters. What is crucial in this election was, people voted for development sans religion and caste.

Bihar polls win a victory of merit -B.J.P

November 24, 2010,
(ANI): Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley on Wednesday described the Bihar election results as a victory of meritorious leadership over dynastic politics.

Talking to reporters here, Jaitley said: "The polls results have showed that politics of Bihar has changed and that "charisma or family" does not win elections.

"That the people wanted a repeat of the government under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's leadership indicates that it is a victory of hope over fear and optimism over despair. It has changed the political agenda of Bihar now.

Hailing Nitish Kumar and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi for running a successful government, Jaitley said: "We are proud of their leadership."

"The NDA ran a government with maturity and integrity," he added.

Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad also said that development has paid off in Bihar.

"Development has paid off in Bihar. There is a profound level of understanding in between Nitish and the BJP," he said.

Speaking on the JD(U)-BJP post poll alliance, he said, "Nitish is the leader but he consults us. There is no disconnect in between Bihar BJP and the national leadership," he added.

BJP leaders comments came as trends showed the Nitish Kumar-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) surging ahead towards a substantive win to retain power in Bihar for a second five-year-term, leading in 180 of the 215 seats at the last count. (ANI)

Rosaiah resigns as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister

November 24, 2010

Hyderabad: As senior Congress leaders headed to Andhra Pradesh, Chief Minister K Rosaiah has announced his resignation.

At a press conference, Rosaiah said his age makes it tough for him to continue in office. He also said he has faced problems with coordinating the party. Since Rosaiah was promoted from Finance to Chief Minister, he has faced considerable opposition from within the Congress, much of it provoked by Jagan Mohan Reddy, whose father was the immensely-popular YSR.

In Delhi, Janardhan Dwivedi of the Congress said that Rosaiah offered his resignation yesterday to the party during his trip to Delhi, and that it was accepted today.

Over the last few days, the Congress in Andhra Pradesh has faced a public and massive attack from one of its own against the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi.

On Friday, Sakshi TV, owned by Jagan Mohan, broadcast a program that was scathing in its assessment of both leaders. The channel's management said Jagan Mohan was not aware of the show's contents. Re-runs of the same show did not carry the controversial parts.

After his father died in a helicopter crash last year, Jagan has rebelled openly against the party's decision to appoint Rosaiah as YSR's successor. He conducted his Odarpu Yatra - a tour of the state and a show of strength, - in open defiance of the party which had ordered him to cut short the road show.

Despite the Sakshi TV attack, the Congress has decided that it will not penalize Jagan for now - the party believes it needs to focus on its battle with the Opposition in parliament over the 2G spectrum scam. This winter session has seen non-stop adjournment of both houses over the 2G issue.

Today, Pranab Mukherjee and Moily will meet with Congress MLAs in Hyderabad. A formal resolution praising Sonia Gandhi is expected to be announced here, along with a strongly-worded condemnation of the Sakshi TV show. But top of the agenda will be picking the next chief minister of Andhra Pradesh who will come to power as the state waits with considerable tension for a report on whether it should be bifurcated.

Yeddyurappa will Continue as Chief Minister - BJP

November 24, 2010

New Delhi: In the midst of the results for the Bihar elections, where the BJP delivered a teflon-strong performance, the party announced that it will not sack its chief minister in Karnataka, BS Yeddyurappa.

"Yeddyurappa has responded publicly and to party leaders. He has also written to me giving his view point. After consultation with senior colleagues and state leaders, party has decided he will continue as CM. With panchayat and zila parishad elections around the corner, party appeals to workers to strive for the success of the party," said party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar. (Watch)

He said the BJP will also conduct its own inquiry into the allegations against Yeddyurappa.

The chief minister has accused - mainly by the Opposition in his state - of misusing his public office to allot government land at below-market rates to his family members. Last week, he said that land would be returned to the government. He has also set up a commission - a retired High Court judge - to investigate all recent allotments of government land.

Yeddyurappa has presented a conundrum for the BJP over the last few days. The party is worried that the perception of a corrupt leader will impact its assault in Delhi against the UPA government. The BJP has taken on the Centre for a trio of scams - the Adarsh Society scam where politicians and bureaucrats cornered flats in a Bombay building meant for war widows and veterans, the apparently-pathological corruption among those who organized the Commonwealth Games, and the 2G scam which led to the resignation of A Raja as Telecom Minister.

Allowing Yeddyurappa to continue in office could make the BJP seem somewhat two-faced in that campaign in Delhi.

However, several of the party's MPs have expressed their strong support for Yeddyurappa- and so dropping him could provoke a serious crisis. Unwilling to risk a split in the party and its government, the BJP also has taken into account that any change in leadership would signal victory to the dissidents within the party in Karnataka. Yeddyurappa has long said that its factions within the BJP that are helping the opposition to campaign for his removal.

There's also the fact that Yeddyurappa is a Lingayat leader- a voter base that played a key role in bringing the BJP to power in Karnataka.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dr.Manmohan Singh encourages valued education on Sai Baba's 85th Birthday eve

P.M at the Annual Convocation 2010 of SSSIHL

The annual convocation of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning was held in Sai Kulwant Hall in a glittering ceremony graced by the Chancellor of the Institute Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba attended by Chief Guest for the convocation His Excellency The Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh along with a host of glitterati from the political world.

The host of dignitaries included Sri K. Rosaiah, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Sri E.S.L. Narasimhan, Governor of Andhra Pradesh, Sri Y.S. Yeddyurappa, Chief Minister of Karnataka, Sri Shivraj Patil, Governor of Punjab, Sri M.K. Stalin, Deputy Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Sri Sushil Kumar Shinde, Union Minister for Power, Sri Ashok Chavan, former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Dr. Ratan Tata, Chairman of Tata Sons, Tata Consultancy Services Chairman Sri N. Chandrasekaran, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Tata Consultancy Services.

The Convocation procession started at 11.10 a.m. . On the request of the Vice Chancellor Dr. Shashidhara Prasad , the Chancellor of the Institute Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba declared the Convocation open and pressed the button to unveil the plaque of 29th Convocation of the Institute.

Dr. Manmohan Singh delivering the convocation speech Dr. Manmohan Singh recalled his earlier visit as Chief Guest in 1995. Opining about the International status of Prasanthi Nilayam, Dr. Singh highlighted on the point of diversity here, watching the microcosm in the township. “Yours is a relatively young University, already established its place as a centre of excellence”, lauded the erudite Chief Guest. Dr. Singh then paraphrased the words of Baba: “This is not a place to earn degrees, but a place to cultivate self-sacrifice, self-knowledge leading to self-realisation”. The true meaning of education is knowledge in action, said Dr. Singh. Speaking on the hallmark of education, Dr. Singh said is to combine science with spirituality.

Addressing the students, Dr. Manmohan Singh said, you are graduating today. I have no doubt you will face challenges, but you will come successful, I have no doubt. You have been exposed to fine minds, excellent libraries. Dr Singh advised that the students that your life will not be complete if you do not reach out to those less unfortunate ones. Render help to them. God bless each and every one of you. With the Institute Brass Band rendering the National Anthem, the Convocation function came to a close at 12.15 p.m.

After the function, Bhagawan went inside the interview room with Dr. Manmohan Singh. After a few minutes, Bhagawan and Dr. Manmohan Singh emerged from the interview room and came on the stage. What followed was the Divine Benedictory Message. The Academic Council members too came on the dais after some time.

Pouring Divine Wisdom as usual, Bhagawan spoke about the glory of Bharatiya culture, the innate divinity, the greater importance of discipline in life, before coming into the crux of the message, on the importance of educare in the present day.

There is no unity at the national level. There is no unity, but instead there is enmity. Everyone should work for the unity of this land. In fact, in every field of public life, unity is required, echoed Bhagawan.

Concluding His benedictory message, Bhagawan exhorted: All are the children of God. You should mingle with each other as brothers. This is the message of Bhagawan on this occasion of Convocation.

Mangala Arathi was offered at 1310 hrs. The Prime Minister was called inside the Interview Room for a private audience that lasted for thirty minutes.

Will Congress expel Jagan

Nov 22, 2010

Hyderabad/New Delhi: A day after late Andhra Pradesh CM YS Rajashekhara Reddy's son and Congress MP Jaganmohan Reddy declared an open war against the party high command, Andhra Pradesh Congress submitted its report.

On Monday, APCC submitted its report to Law minister Veerappa Moily who has called the issue of Jagan's defiance a serious one.

It remains to be seen whether the Congress will act against the rebel Kadappa MP for his defiance.

Meanwhile, supporters of Jagan Reddy are rallying around him staging protests and raising pro-Jagan slogans.

On Saturday, Saakshi, the 24-hour Telugu news channel owned by Jagan launched a frontal attack on party president Sonia Gandhi.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was also targeted along with the "coterie around Sonia" for the "sorry state of affairs in Congress."

The channel described Sonia's leadership a failure and PM as her rubber stamp. The special report - telecast on Friday and repeated on Saturday - is believed to be aimed at forcing the leadership to expel him.

Jagan has been angry with the party leadership for ignoring his claim to succeed his father Y S Rajasekhara Reddy as Andhra Pradesh CM. The Congress leaders opposed to Jagan said the story was aimed at targeting Gandhi for not making him the chief minister after his father's death in a helicopter crash in September last year.

Remarks against PM, Sonia by Jagan channel serious issue: Moily

NEW DELHI: Law minister M Veerappa Moily on Monday termed as a 'serious issue' the telecast of a programme on rebel Congress MP Jaganmohan Reddy-owned TV channel, projecting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in bad light.

"It is a very serious issue... I have received the reports from Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K Rosaiah and PCC", Moily told reporters here.

However, he refused to answer whether disciplinary action was in the offing against Jagan.

He also said that the party high command had not summoned Rosaiah to Delhi over the issue.

Taking a serious note of the issue yesterday, Congress had sought a report from the state unit, even as the channel repeated the programme without some critical captions and voice-overs.

Sakshi, the 24-hour Telugu news channel owned by the 38-year-old Kadapa MP and son of late chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy, had launched a frontal attack on Sonia as well as the organisation in the one-hour programme.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was also targeted along with the "coterie around Sonia" for the "sorry state of affairs in Congress."

Rejecting allegations that the programmes showed the Congress President or the Prime Minister in bad light, Sakshi CEO Priyadarshini Ram said the story was not against either Sonia or Singh and maintained that there was no intervention by Jaganmohan with regard to the content of the TV channel.

"It was not a story against...either Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh. It was a current story that was based on the 125 years of the Congress party, how it was faring...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The 85th birthday of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba falls on November 23

About Sri Sathya Sai Baba – His Mission

An attempt to know about Sathya Sai Baba, unravels His mission.

Sathya Sai Baba was born in a remote inaccessible hamlet called Puttaparthi in Ananthapur District of Andhra Pradesh in India on 23rd November 1926 to the pious couple Sri Ratnakaram Pedda Venkama Raju and Smt. Eswaramma. Baba was named Sathyanarayana Raju. Young Raju was exemplary to others through his behavior. Even as a child, His spiritual inclination and contemplative nature set Him apart from other children of His age, and He was known as ‘Guru’ and “Brahmajnani’ (knower of Brahman or Godhead) among His peers and others in the village. However, He made the historic declaration of His Avatarhood, (‘Avatar’ means ‘Divinity Incarnate in Human Form’) on October 20, 1940. The world at large started learning of His divine phenomenon (about Sathya Sai Baba) and the Holy Mission started unfolding.

Sri Sathya Sai Baba has emerged as a beacon of hope in a world that is desperately seeking an end to the unrest and sorrow prevalent today. His message of “Love All Serve All – Help Ever Hurt Never” is a spiritual salve that will lead mankind from the pain of darkness and ignorance and to the light and bliss of immortality.
To know about Sri Sathya Sai Baba and His mission, He is a global phenomenon of contemporary times. He is revered and worshipped across the continents by millions of people for his teachings of value oriented life and for his innumerable projects in education, medical care and fulfillment of social needs. In the present global scenario of value crisis, Sathya Sai way of life: “Love for God, fear of sin and morality in society” is the panacea for all the illnesses of the society all over the globe.

Sri Sathya Sai Baba is an integral manifestation of Spirituality and Pure Love. He is a great spiritual Master, famed for His simple and sweet exposition of the greatest and most intricate of spiritual truths, which form the fundamental teachings of all the religions of the world. His formula for humanity to lead a meaningful life is the five-fold path of: Sathya (Truth), Dharma (Righteousness), Shanthi (Peace), Prema (Love), and Ahimsa (Non-Violence).

Thus knowing Sathya Sai Baba, simply unravels His mission on this earth.

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba Is Omnipresent

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba propagates true love that expects no rewards; he wants love that transcends the boundaries of caste, class, race, language or religion.

The 85th birthday of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba falls on November 23. The birth of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba was a unique phenomenon. He was born in full possession of his powers and his divine awareness. He has said that he was fully and consciously himself from the very moment of his birth.

Swamy’s Ashram, Prashanthi Nilayam, the heaven of supreme bliss, is fast assuming the status and symbol of a Hindu Vatican. It lives up to its calling. There is something psychic about it, a spiritual presence which casts its spell on the visitor.

Sri Sathya Sai Baba is the embodiment of compassion for all mankind. Everything he says or does is out of his deep Prema for suffering humanity. When humanity learns that the way of love is superior to the way of selfishness, jealousy and hatred, it will discover the path to divinity and establish a world based on love and righteousness. “Start the day with love; fill the day with love; end the day with love: that is the way to God,” is Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s constant refrain.

It has been truly said that “trifles make perfection, but perfection is no trifle”. Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s greatness lies in the compassion that makes him attend to the minutest of details in everything. Nothing escapes his eye whether in Puttaparthy, Whitefield (Bangalore) or elsewhere. Every detail of all kinds of work is lovingly attended to: even the suggestion of colour schemes for his buildings, the menu in the Sathya Sai canteens or for that matter, even the preparation of a glass of buttermilk offered to a guest! These indicate both his boundless compassion and endless energy for all things and shows that nothing is too small for his attention.

The teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba are rooted in the profound message of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Bhagavatham and the Ramayanam. Without any formal schooling in these scriptures, Baba quotes freely and spontaneously from them to illustrate his discourses. While he is in this sense the authentic exponent of the spiritual and cultural heritage of India, his mission and message have an universal appeal. Bhagavan’s concern and compassion extend to all youth. During summer vacations, Baba conducts courses on Indian culture and spirituality for selected boys and girls from all colleges in India besides Sai institutions. He has organised from time to time spiritual orientation courses for school teachers and college principals. The Sathya Sai study circles is yet another attempt to involve intellectuals and educationists in integrating science and spirituality and giving a spiritual dimension to education in schools and colleges

A student asked a question from Swamy at Swamy’s study circle that, “Some are rich and some are poor. Some people enjoy life and some are suffering. Atheist is enjoying life while devotee is suffering. Of the two sons, one is a king and another is a pauper. Do we have answers to all this in spirituality?” Bhagawan answered, “Everyone is an individual climbing the ladder of spirituality to attain liberation, that is freedom from ‘birth and death’ and achieve permanent bliss. Just like there are so many vehicles as means of transport, to reach Godliness also, some take flight, some take the train, some car, others take the bullock cart, some walk and there are still others who are sitting on a tortoise! Nevertheless, everyone is moving, though in varying speeds!

“Consider that this body has been given to us on rent, so is the place where we stay, so are the materialistic possessions and so are all the relationships. We need to keep paying the rent as long as we’re living this biological life. Rent in the form of seva or service, worship, love etc.”

So anyone can be born in any rented family. Prahalada was born to the demon Hiranyakashipu. Vibheeshana was Ravana’s brother. Krishna had an uncle who was the brutal King Kamsa. Look at king Dasaratha’s misfortune in spite of having Lord Rama as his son! And on the contrary see the grace that the bird Jatayu had that died in Rama’s hands!

Look at the atheists who refuse to believe in all this. But they boast that they believe in themselves and they boast of their self confidence. The truth is when you believe in yourself so much, you actually believe in God only since God only is residing in your body! He’s the indweller in this rented body! Understanding this is ‘spirituality’.

Everything is Karma. Why then should we worship and seek God? Because there is a story about a king who lost an infant in a hunting spell. The child grew up along with some forest dwellers into a handsome young boy. One day he was spotted by some sages who happened to pass through the forest. They realised and recognised that the boy didn’t belong to that hunting tribe because his appearance reflected a royal lineage. They made some enquiries and their hunch turned out to be true. Subsequently, they led the boy to his rightful father, the king of the land, who delightfully welcomed his long lost son! Just imagine that we’re all long lost sons and daughters of our true and real parents who’s none other than God, the universal consciousness. Wouldn’t you like to go back to the king of the universe?

God’s grace can cancel all your karmic effects or the evil effects of your past life. Nothing untoward can happen to you then.

You see many medicines kept for sale in a medical shop. On each of the medicine you find the date of manufacture and of expiry. The medicine will not act with efficiency beyond the date of expiry. It becomes just useless.

What God does is exactly the same thing. He simply stamps on the medicine bottle, that’s you and I, the date of expiry cancelling our Karma. Right then, our suffering ends. This is how God, out of His sheer grace and compassion, gives us relief.

Rama killed Vaali hiding behind a tree and Vaali cursed the lord that he would meet the same fate one day. During yet another incarnation, as Krishna avatar in another yuga, he was sitting on the branch of a tree (much after the Kurukshetra War), when a hunter hiding behind a tree mistook Krishna’s feet to that of an animal (maybe a rabbit) and shot an arrow that killed lord Krishna. Karma doesn’t spare even the avatar.

Sometimes, unnecessary emphasis is given to the miracles performed by Bhagawan who himself attaches no importance to them and is very casual about it. When he materialises holy ash (Vibuthi) or a ring or watch for a devotee, it is more like a visiting card or symbol of his compassion and love.

“You look to me and I look to you. You take one step towards me and I shall take a thousand towards you!” — Baba

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

S G / Gopal Subramanium to answer SC queries on PM

November 17, 2010

New Delhi: Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium will Thursday have to address many of the Supreme Court's queries related to "inaction and silence" on the part of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a plea for prosecuting then telecom minister A. Raja for lapses in the 2G spectrum scam.

Former MP Subramanian Swamy submitted the application to the prime minister Nov 29, 2008 seeking sanction to launch criminal proceedings against Raja under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

A report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has indicted the government for irregularities in the 2G spectrum allocation, causing the exchequer a loss of Rs.1.76 trillion ($40 billion).

The solicitor general Thursday will have to explain to the court the delay on the part of the prime minister.

Gopal Subramanium will have to satisfy the court on why it took the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) 11 months for filing a first information report (FIR) in the scam. The solicitor general will also address the question of "inaction and silence" of the prime minister in replying to Swamy's application on Raja. He will also have to answer why the companies that were not eligible for the grant of 2G licences were awarded the same.

Justice G.S. Singhvi has already stated that Swamy's application did not suffer from any vagueness.

The court will also look into the question whether the three months' period to decide on an application seeking permission to launch criminal proceedings against a tainted union minister should commence from the date when the plea is filed or from the date when a CBI probe into the matter gets over.

Why was PM silent for 16 months?'

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the “alleged inaction and silence” on the part of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for 16 months in taking a decision on a private complaint seeking sanction for prosecution of A. Raja, who has since resigned as Telecom Minister, in the 2G spectrum scam.

“The Prime Minister could have said that the material on record was insufficient and declined sanction but he could not have sat over the complaint for 16 months,” observed Justice A.K. Ganguly, who was on a two-judge Bench presided over by Justice G.S. Singhvi.

The Bench was hearing a special leave petition filed by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy for a direction to the Prime Minister to grant sanction for prosecution of Mr. Raja. It asked Solicitor-General (SG) Gopal Subramaniam, representing the Prime Minister, to go through records and inform the court on Thursday what action was taken on Dr. Swamy's complaint.

Dr. Swamy, citing the judgment in the Vineet Narain case, said the sanctioning authority (SA) should decide one way or the other within three months and must act independently on the material placed on record. However, since Mr. Raja had now resigned, no sanction was required for his prosecution, Dr. Swamy said, adding he must be permitted to file the private complaint in the competent court.

The SG said it was open to the SA to look into other material before arriving at a decision. He said the three-month period mentioned in the Vineet Narain case pertained to cases where investigation had been completed. It was open to the SA to await the result of the probe for a proper decision.

Justice Ganguly told the SG: “The three months' time for grant of sanction laid down by the Supreme Court is for the purpose of fair and good governance. The judgment says the SA will not be influenced by extraneous materials. We find it is now more than 16 months. The SA can say I am not inclined to give sanction. But we find alleged inaction and silence for 16 months.”

Justice Ganguly referred to the Prime Minister's reply sent to Dr. Swamy on March 19, 2010 that he wanted to wait for further material or await CBI investigation, and said “for the PM saying it is premature [to decide on sanction] is what is troubling us.”

Justice Ganguly said: “The SA can say ‘yes' or ‘no', but to say premature means the complainant has not got that right yet. You look at the language of the letter and the tenor of the reply. Communication coming from a constitutional authority like the Prime Minister has to be carefully used.”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

CAG report tabled in Parliament, indicts A Raja

16 Nov 2010

Government on Tuesday tabled in Parliament the CAG report on 2G spectrum allocation, whose reported extracts have created a political storm and led to the resignation of Telecom Minister A Raja. The report says that 85 out of 122 licenses issued in 2008 were found to be given to companies which did not satisfy basic eligibility criteria.

It has also blamed the DoT of keeping the issue of spectrum pricing outside the purview of the GoM. The report has said that the allocation of 2G spectrum lacked transparency and the DoT did not follow guidelines.

The report has also said that TRAI remained a helpless spectator when the spectrum was allotted in 2008 at the 2001 prices.

Telecom Minister A Raja had justified allotment of spectrum to a few new operators in 2008 without reconsidering the old entry fee discovered in 2001, ignoring the advise of the Prime Minister, says CAG.

The government has expressed readiness to discuss the CAG report after it is tabled in Parliament.

The report was placed in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha amid uproar by the Opposition which demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the alleged scam.

It was tabled in the Lower House by Minister of State for Finance S S Palanimanickam, who belongs to the DMK, and in the Upper House by his ministerial colleague Namo Narayan Meena.

Raja, who is a member of the Lok Sabha, was not present in the House when the report was tabled as soon as it reassembled at noon after an hour-long adjournment.

The report has pegged the revenue loss to the exchequer at Rs 1.76 lakh crore due to non-auctioning of the spectrum in 2008.

After the extracts of the report came out in the media, the Opposition launched a blistering attack on the government demanding Raja's removal and a JPC probe.

Raja has maintained that he has done no wrong and distributed the licenses as per the policies followed by his predecessors since 1999.

He initially refused to resign but finally quit on Sunday after intense pressure.

Krishna rubbishes Yeddyruappa's claims on land deals

16 Nov 2010

Bangalore: External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna late Monday denied he had denotified lands acquired by the Karnataka government to favour some people when he was the chief minister of the sate during 1999-2004.

He was reacting to Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa's statement earlier Monday that not only he but several of his predecessors had denotified (freed from government control) the lands.

In a statement here Krishna said that between October 1999 and June 2004, over 2,000 acres of state's land was denotified to be utilised by various government departments.

The land so freed was for projects like the construction of outer ring road in Bangalore and for utilisation by Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) and others, Krishna said.

Yeddyurappa had said during Krishna's rule 633 acres of land was denotified.

Yeddyurappa gave details of land denotified in the last ten years and also residential sites allotted by chief ministers under their discretionary quota to contend that he has not favoured his children in land deals.

Antony says irregularities did take place in Adarsh Society

New Delhi: Prima facie there were 'irregularities' in construction of Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai, which include issuance of 'No Objection Certificate' by Army and grant of the society membership to civilians, Defence Minister A K Antony told the Lok Sabha today. He said the CBI has been entrusted with the inquiry to get the matter thoroughly investigated and responsibilities fixed. Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society (ACHS) had sought land from Maharashtra government for the welfare of serving and retire personnel. 'Prima facie there have been irregularities,' Antony said in a written reply to questions.
'Some issues of concern in this regard include issue of NOC by the Army to inter alia alienate the land in its possession in favour of the ACHS; by-passing the Coastal Regulation Zone and disregard to security concerns of the defence services,' he added.

The Minister said the Society had also deviated from its commitment for defence forces welfare and included civilians as members of the Society. He said 102 people were alloted flats in the society, of which 37 were serving officers. The society has constructed a multi-storeyed building on a land measuring approx 3837.57 sq metres in Colaba, Mumbai. The scam came to light after Western Naval Commander Admiral Sanjeev Bhasin shot off a letter to the Armyheadquarters and the Defence Ministry seeking action against the building for posing a security threat to military installations. The land was within the security perimeter of the naval base in the upscale Colaba region of south Mumbai, Admiral Bhasin had noted in his letter.

It also came to light that former Army Chiefs General Deepak Kapoor and General N C Vij, apart from former Navy Chief Admiral Madhavendra Singh too had flats allotted in their name in the housing society that was meant for families of Kargil martyrs. PTI

Monday, November 15, 2010

BS Yeddyurappa to Expose detractors

Nov 15, 2010

Chief minister BS Yeddyurappa on Sunday vowed to expose his detractors by revealing details of shoddy land deals in the state during the last 10 years. He said that he would present the documents before the media on Monday afternoon related to the transactions in and around Bangalore to expose the previous ruling parties.

“The opposition parties were not able to digest the fact that the ruling party was striving hard to put the state on the track of development. They do not want the good deeds of the state government to reach the common man. They are, therefore, indulging in baseless and mala fide allegations,” said Yeddyurappa.

Yeddyurappa said that he was even ready to convene a three-day legislature session only to discuss the scams that have occurred during the last 10 years. “I am the first chief minister who dared to ban the export of iron ore in the state. I have been dealing with iron hands on illegal trade, be it mining or any other form of trade in the state,” he said.

The chief minister accused the opposition parties and its leaders of pressuring him to withdraw the ban on the export of iron ore. “Being the chief minister, I’m stuck to the stand to protect the state’s resources with the utmost sincerity,” he said.

Strongly defending the land deals favouring his sons, BY Vijayendra and BY Raghavendra, Yeddyurappa said that the allotments made in his tenure were in accordance with the law. “There is not a single grain of truth in the allegations,” he said.

“I am not the person who will indulge in misuse of power bestowed upon me by the people. Neither I, nor my family, have ever indulged in any of these issues raised by the opposition,” he added.
The government will not postpone the taluk and zilla panchayat elections scheduled to be held in December.

The chief minister brushed aside speculations about the creation of a post of deputy chief minister

Supreme Court Directed Vodafone to Deposit Rs.2,500 crore in 3 Weeks

November 15, 2010

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday (November 15) directed telecom major Vodafone to deposit Rs. 2,500 crore ($550 million) as part of a tax liability within 3 weeks for the acquisition of the Hutchinson stake in the Hutchinson-Essar telecom joint venture firm in 2007, while it challenges a tax bill for the country’s largest cross-border deal.

Supreme Court Bench Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia directed the Telecom giant Vodafone to provide a bank guarantee of Rs.8,500 crore to the government and the cash amount of Rs.2,500 crore. The cash has to be deposited within a three week time while the bank guarantee within eight weeks.

According to the court, the deposit will be returned with interest if Vodafone wins the legal dispute. India’s tax department raised the tax demand of 112 billion rupees on Vodafone’s purchase of Hutchison Whampoa Ltd.’s Indian mobile-phone unit three years ago. However, Vodafone has maintained that no tax is payable as the transaction was executed outside the country and the Indian tax authorities have no right to seek tax.

In September, IT dept on the direction of Supreme Court raised the tax demand of Rs. 11,217.95 crore on Vodafone International holdings BV treating it as an assessee in default for failure to deduct tax as required before making a payment of $11,076 million (about Rs. 55,000 crore) to Hutchison Telecommunication International Ltd.

IT Department treated Vodafone as an assessee in default under Section 201(1) of the Income Tax Act, 1961, for failure to deduct tax as required under section 195 of the Act. SC on September 27 directed the Vodafone to pay the tax within a month. February 24, 2011 has been fixed as the final date for Vodafone hearing by the Supreme Court.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Telecommunications Minister A.Raja resigns

NEW DELHI: Ahead of an expected statement in Parliament on Monday, Minister for Communications and Information Technology A. Raja has handed over his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The development follows hectic parleys between some senior Congress leaders and Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi during the day. By evening on Sunday, the DMK leader advised Mr. Raja to submit his resignation.

NDA government policy

This brings to a close one chapter of the drama that involved allegations of corruption in 2G spectrum allocation, although Mr. Raja continued to maintain that he was following the policy laid down by the previous National Democratic Alliance government and was not guilty of any wrong doing.

Soon after tendering his resignation, Mr. Raja told journalists here that he had done what he had been advised to do by “my leader,” that is, Mr. Karunanidhi. Mr. Raja said he was confident that his innocence would be established. “My conscience is clear and I have done nothing wrong.”

‘Tele-density had risen'

Mr. Raja pointed out that through his efforts in the Ministry tele-density had risen from about 300 million users, when he took charge, to over 700 million now. The rates per call for mobile telephone users had also fallen dramatically from Rs.1.60 to just 40 paise or less, with huge reductions in outstation telephone call charges.

The CAG report on the spectrum allocation, sent to President Pratibha Patil for her signature, is expected to be presented to Parliament on Monday or the next couple of days.

Senior Congress leaders have so far maintained that serious adverse remarks were made by the CAG even in its report in 2000 on the telecom sector when the then NDA government waived committed licence fees and allowed companies in this sector to migrate to a system of revenue sharing. At that time too, there were allegations of loss to the exchequer of thousands of crores of rupees. “In any case, the CAG report will be seen by the Public Accounts Committee chaired by senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi,” a senior Congress leader in the government pointed out.

The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties have welcomed the resignation of Mr. Raja, but there is no word yet on what will happen in Parliament that has been stalled since November 10.

Two terrorists killed in Jammu and Kashmir

14 Nov 2010

Jammu: Two terrorists who had attempted to sneak into the Indian side along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir around midnight Saturday were killed by the Indian Army, sources said Sunday.

The Indian troops spotted some movement along the LoC and opened fire, in which two of the infiltrators were killed, army sources told IANS.

The incident took place in Krishna Ghati sector of Poonch district, 210 km north of Jammu, around midnight Saturday.

'It appeared to be a fresh infiltration bid by terrorists from across the LoC as Pakistan is desperate to push in as many terrorists into the Indian side before the mountainous passes close with snow in the coming months,' an army officer of the 16 corps of the Indian Army based at Nagrota, near Jammu, said on condition of anonymity.

Krishna Ghati has been in the news for infiltration in the past four months.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Obama Backs U.N.Permanant Seat for India

New Delhi: Lauding India's growing role in global bodies, US President Barack Obama Monday said the US welcomed India as it prepared for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

'We welcome India as it prepares to take a seat at the United Nations Security Council,' said Obama in an address to members of the two houses of parliament.

'And as two global leaders, the United States and India can partner for global security - especially as India serves on the Security Council over the next two years,'

'Indeed, the just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate,' he said.

'That is why I can say today-in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member,' he said to loud applause from over 780 MPs.

Obama stressed that the US valued India's role in global economic decision-making bodies like the G20 and in ongoing consultation over global issues like climate change.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

India signs $10-billion worth deals with U.S.

Taking India-U.S. trade relations to new territory, U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday announced that deals worth $10 billion (nearly Rs.44,000 crore) have been reached between India and the U.S. for creating more than 50,000 jobs back in the U.S.

“Several landmark deals have been done shortly before my arrival here. Boeing is going to sell dozens of planes to India and GE is going to sell hundreds of electric engines. The deals are worth $10 billion and will create more than 50,000 jobs in the U.S.,” said President Obama while addressing the U.S-India Business and Entrepreneurship Summit here.

ADAG, SpiceJet sign agreement

Among the deals, SpiceJet has purchased 30 737-800 aircraft with a total cost of $2.8 billion from Boeing and the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group purchased power equipment for 2,400 MW plants from GE for $2 billion.

Increase in trade between the U.S. and India is a “win-win situation for both nations”, said President Obama. The summit was jointly organised by U.S.-India Business Council, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). President Obama hoped that the trade between the two countries would be doubled in five years. “There is no reason why India can't be our top trading partner. Trade with India is less than with the Netherlands, whose population and size is less than Mumbai,” he said. Saying that economic relationship between India and the U.S. is still untapped, President Obama said, “India can be U.S.'s largest trade partner instead of 12th”.


However, Mr. Obama asked India to ease trade barriers to open up market access. India is the market of the future where Washington was willing to step up investments, provided uncertainties relating to tariffs and other barriers were taken care of.

He also expressed confidence that he was absolutely sure that relationship between the two countries was going to be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.

He said U.S. was committed to reciprocate by easing trade barriers. The U.S. also is ready to ease curbs on export of dual use of technology. He said he would work with India towards easing of export rules which could result in ending the technology denial regime against Indian entities such as DRDO and ISRO.

“Back-offices in India cost American jobs. We don't want one-way traffic in trade; It's a dynamic two-way relationship for jobs and higher living standards,” he said.

U.S. was firm on its own commitments towards it. Referring to visa fee hike and outsourcing restrictions in the U.S., he said, “We don't want to unfairly target companies or people in India.” He said that India would be the largest supplier of workforce in the future and that the U.S. would compete with it in a healthy way in various areas.

President Obama started his speech wishing the gathering by acknowledging lighting up the diya on Diwali and “saal mubarak” (Happy New Year) to all.

He also reminded the gathering that he was the first U.S. President to celebrate Diwali at the White House. Lauding India's growth story he said that the sheer size and pace of India's progress was stunning in human history.

Obama in Mumbai Calls India Market of the Future

President Barack Obama says further opening India's markets to U.S. exports is crucial to job growth in the United States, and to economic progress for both countries. Mr. Obama spoke to American and Indian business executives on the first day of a three-day visit to strengthen economic, political and security ties with India, as part of a 10-day Asian tour.

Mr. Obama met with Indian and U.S. business entrepreneurs, and participated in a roundtable with U.S. executives gathered here as part one of the largest-ever foreign business missions ever undertaken.

In remarks to a business summit organized by the U.S. - India Business Council, the president described the U.S. - India relationship as one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.

Obama arrives, pays homage to Mumbai terror victims

6 Nov 2010

Mumbai:US President Barack Obama Saturday paid homage to victims of the Mumbai terror attack of 2008, saying those who organised it needed to be punished.

Addressing families of some of the dead at the Taj Mahal and Palace Tower Hotel, one of the targets of the Pakistani terrorists, Obama said he 'will never forget the awful image of 26/11'.

Calling the terrorists 'murderers', he said they sneaked into Mumbai to kill 'innocent civilians'.

A total of 166 Indians and foreigners, Americans included, were massacred when 10 terrorists from Pakistan went on a killing spree in Mumbai for three long days from Nov 26.

'Those who attacked Mumbai wanted to demoralize this city and this country but they failed,' he said.

'The very next day, Mumbaikars came back to work... Within weeks, this hotel was welcoming guests from around the world.'

He said the Indian and US governments were working more closely than ever to keep people safe by sharing intelligence.

He said he looked forward to deepening counter-terror cooperation 'when I meet Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh in New Delhi'.

With an hour of landing at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Obama took off in a US helicopter and then his Cadillac to reach the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel at the edge of the Arabian Sea to pay homage to those who died in the terror attack.

After lunch at the Presidential Suite of the hotel, where he and his wife Michelle will spend Saturday night, he will go to Mani Bhavan, now a museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, a childhood hero of the US president.

The US Air Force One carrying the Obamas landed on runway 14 at 12.48 p.m. after flying some 15 hours from Washington.

Obama, dressed in a black business suit, and Michelle walked out of the aircraft with their hands locked. Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and central Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, the minister-in-waiting for the US president, received them with warm handshakes.

The chief minister handed the president a gift packet and a bouquet to the US First Lady, who wore a grey dress with a three-string pearl necklace around her neck.

This is Obama's first visit to India -- and the first halt in a four-nation Asian tour that will take him to Indonesia, South Korea and Japan.

It will be Obama's longest visit to any country since he assumed the presidency two years ago. On Sunday, Obama will reach New Delhi for talks with Indian leaders before leaving for Indonesia Tuesday.

Apart from Michelle, Obama is accompanied by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Security Adviser Tom Donillon and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

Prior to his departure from the US, Obama said in a signed article in the New York Times that the US wanted 'to be known not just for what we consume, but for what we produce. And the more we export abroad, the more jobs we create in America. In fact, every $1 billion we export supports more than 5,000 jobs at home'.

Obama said his priority was to double US exports in the next five years.

The president will also visit St Xavier's college, where he will interact with select students, and address Indian business leaders.

In New Delhi, the US president will address Indian MPs.

Obama is pushing New Delhi to lift a cap on foreign investment in the defence sector while India wants more visas so high-tech workers can move to the US.

More than 200 US business leaders are also making the trip to India.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

China using Pakistan to slow India's growth: Former US envoy

04 Nov 2010

WASHINGTON: Relation between India and China has deteriorated in last 18 months and is unlikely to get better, a former US Ambassador to India has said and he shared the perception of many Indian strategic thinkers that Beijing is using Pakistan to slow India's rise.

'I think it's fair to say now that China-India relations are not very good and in fact have been deteriorating for about last 18 months,' Robert Blackwill, former US Ambassador to India said in a conference call with reporters in a briefing on Obama's India visit.

'The Indians have a long list of Chinese transgressions, which in my judgment are accurate, having to do with Chinese policy on Kashmir and on the border dispute between the two countries and the so-called 'ring of pearls' of Chinese quasi-military installations in Bangladesh and in Sri Lanka and in Pakistan and so forth,' he said.

Blackwill is currently the Henry Kissinger Senior Fellow for US foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations - a prestigious US-based think tank.

'So the relations aren't very good between the two. The Prime Minister keeps saying, and I think deeply believes, that there's no reason why India and China could not have a good long-term relationship. But it isn't clear that same degree of enthusiasm for that end state is felt in Beijing,' he said.

Many Indian strategists think that think there's some evidence that China's preoccupation with Pakistan and its long-time close links is closely connected to the Chinese realisation that if India is preoccupied, if not pinned down by cross-border terrorism from Pakistan and problems in the India-Pakistan relation, that it will slow the rise of India as a great power.

'In other words, China using Pakistan to slow India's rise,' Blackwill said.

'So China-India relations are not good, and I myself don't think they're going to get very much better on the geopolitical and security side. Now on the economic side, they're thriving, and of course, that's good for both countries,' he said.

'The Indians have no interest in thoughts of containing China, a concept that one sees in the American media from time to time. No way faster to clear a Delhi drawing room than to begin to talk about containing China.

'But what India would like is an agreement with the US that over the long term, the US and India will keep in close touch, both to the issue of Chinese behaviour and trying to decipher it, and second, close touch on trying to shape Chinese external behaviour in a positive way,' Blackwill said.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Karnataka High Court Friday upheld the disqualification of the 11 rebel legislators

Posted on: 29 Oct 2010

Bangalore: The Karnataka High Court Friday upheld the disqualification of the 11 rebel legislators of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from the state assembly by Speaker K.G. Bopaiah.

Delivering the judgment in a packed courtroom, Justice V.G. Sabhahit said the rebel legislators stood disqualified under the 10(a) schedule of the anti-defection law.

CM welcomes court verdict

Hailing the Karnataka High Court verdict upholding the disqualification of 11 BJP rebel MLAs, Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa today described it as 'epoch making' and a major step towards eradicating the menance of defection in the country.

'This order has come as a warning bell to those who indulge in defection. I hope this will herald a new era in bringing an end to defections in the country,' Yeddyurappa told PTI.

Yeddyurappa, overwhelmed by Justice V G Sabhahit's ruling upholding disqualification of the rebel MLAs for withdrawing support to his government, said 'this has enhanced my responsibilities now. Now I have to give a further fillip
to development activities'. PTI

Left routed in Kerala civic polls

October 29, 2010

Reaffirming once again that the end of the Left’s supremacy in Kerala politics is imminent, the people of the State voted the CPI(M)-led ruling LDF out of power in majority of the local administration bodies.

As the results of the civic elections held in two phases on October 23 and 25 came out on Wednesday, the LDF suffered jolts at all the three levels of the local administration system. The Left’s setback was a near replication of the setback the CPI(M) suffered in the last municipal elections in West Bengal.

As the present setback has come after its terrible defeats in the last Lok Sabha election, by-polls to three Assembly seats and several local council byelections, observers expect the LDF to be thrown out of power in the State elections in April-May next.

The Left was defeated in two of the four city corporations where counting of votes was held on Wednesday. The poll results in the municipal councils were shocking to the Left as the results of the 2005 elections were more than reversed. Of the 57 municipalities for which votes were counted, the Congress-led UDF bagged 30.

The Left, which had won 34 municipalities in the 2005 civic elections, was reduced to just 12 seats. Though it managed to win more seats than the Congress-led front in some other municipal councils, this became meaningless as they could not muster enough seats to rule. In 15 municipalities, no party was in majority.

In results in the prestigious Kochi Corporation, which it ruled for 32 years continuously, was shocking for the Left. Of the total 74 seats in this corporation, the LDF was reduced to 21 seats while the UDF bagged 44 divisions. The BJP won two seats. The LDF also lost power in the Thrissur Corporation.

The Left win in the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation was absolutely unconvincing as it was by just one seat in the 100-division council. The UDF, which had won only ten seats in the last election, bagged 41 seats this time.

The BJP won in six divisions. The only corporation where the Left had a convincing win was Kollam.

However, the severest shock for the Left came from the Grama Panchayats, where the votes came from the grassroots, said to be the support base of the proletarian CPI(M). As the results for the 902 Grama Panchayats in which counting was held trickled in late on Wednesday evening, the LDF had won or was leading only in 361 while the UDF led in 534.

This was almost a total reversal of the results of the 2005 civic polls in which the Left had won 668 of the total 978 Grama Panchayats. The CPI(M) might explain away the defeats in the urban areas as an elitist reaction but the setback in the village bodies is clearly an indication of how the party’s basic support system has crumbled.

The situation in the Block and District panchayats was also not very different. In the 140 Block Panchayats for which vote-counting was on, the LDF was leading only in 60 while the UDF was in the lead in 80. The LDF had won 13 of the 14 district Panchayats in 2005 but this time, the UDF was leading in eight.

Despite its startling defeat, the CPI(M) tried to put up a bold face. State CPI(M) secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said the LDF’s position had improved when compared to the Lok Sabha election while several other leaders termed the Left defeat as a result of the “unholy alliances” of the UDF.


THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) has registered an impressive victory in the local body elections in Kerala, securing majority in two of the five City Corporations and 38 of the 59 municipalities.

Initial trends point to the UDF leading in 7,584 grama panchayat wards, 1,103 block panchayat wards and 180 district panchayat divisions. The CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) retained Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam Corporations and secured 16 municipalities. It has secured a lead in 5,887 grama panchayats, 757 block and 122 district panchayat divisions. The results of the Corporations and the municipalities were the first to be announced as electronic voting machines were used there. The first round of manual counting of ballots for the district, block and grama panchayats is progressing. A final picture is expected to emerge by Thursday evening. Counting at the Kozhikode Corporation will be taken up on October 31.

BJP fares well

The BJP has improved upon its tally compared to the previous local body polls. The party has got significant representation in Thiruvananthapuram Corporation — six seats, two in Kochi, one in Thrissur and 76 seats in various municipalities, the highest of 15 in Palakkad municipality. The party candidates finished runners-up in eight wards in Thiruvananthapuram Corporation. The party will play a crucial role in deciding the rulers in four municipalities. The SDPI has also opened its account by securing one seat each in Kannur and Thodupuzha municipalities.

A distinct feature of the local body elections this time is that 50 per cent of the over 21,000 seats are reserved for women in the multi-tier local self-government bodies.

The UDF wrested the Kochi Corporation from the LDF after three decades, winning 46 out of the 74 seats. The LDF won 23 wards and the BJP, 2 and Independent, 3. The UDF also emerged victorious in the Thrissur Corporation, winning 44 out of the 55 seats. Here, the LDF got six seats, the BJP, one and Independents, four seats.

The LDF has retained the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation winning 51 out of the 100 seats, leaving 41 to the UDF, six to the BJP and two to Independents. The LDF won the Kollam Corporation for a third successive term bagging 34 out of the 55 seats. The UDF got 18 seats and others, three seats.

No majority

As per the figures of the State Election Commission, none of the fronts secured majority in Neyyattinkara and Nedumangad municipalities in Thiruvananthapuram, and Changanassery in Kottayam district.

In Thiruvananthapuram district, the LDF retained Attingal municipality and the UDF wrested Varkala from the LDF. In Kollam district, the LDF won Paravur and Punalur municipalities, while the UDF registered an impressive victory in Karunagapally municipality. In Pathanamthitta district, the UDF secured majority in Adoor and Pathanamthitta municipalities and emerged as the largest group in Thiruvalla with 17 seats. While the LDF got 13, the BJP bagged five seats. The LDF won Alappuzha municipality and the UDF Cherthala in the district. The UDF emerged victorious in Kottayam, Vaikom and Pala municipalities. In Ernakulam district, the UDF won 12 and the LDF, one municipality. The LDF won four and the UDF two municipalities in Thrissur district. In Palakkad, the fronts shared two municipalities each. The rival fronts maintained status quo in Kannur district. Of the total six municipalities, elections were held to five. While the LDF retained Thalassery, Koothuparamba, Taliparamba and Payyannur , the UDF fortified its position in Kannur municipality. Elections to Mattannur will be held later.

In Kasaragod district, the UDF registered a thumping victory in Kasaragod and Kanhangad municipalities, while the CPI(M) defeated the UDF in Neeleswaram.

The UDF won the lone municipality in Wayanad district, Kalpetta, capturing 20 of the 28 wards. The Congress and the Indian Union Muslim League won eight seats each and the Socialist Janata (Democratic) four seats. In Malappuram, the UDF retained power in Malappuram, Manjeri and Tirur municipalities and toppled the LDF in Ponnani and Perinthalmanna municipalities. The UDF will rule the newly-formed Kottakkal and Nilambur municipalities. The UDF also won 17 seats in Perinthalmanna and the LDF 16. One seat went to an Independent candidate.

In the campaign, both the LDF and UDF had described the civic body elections, held on October 23 and 25, as a referendum on the government's performance.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

BJP demands JPC probe in CWG Corruption

October 19, 2010

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today demanded the setting up of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to inquire into the allegations of corruption in the organisation of the XIX Commonwealth Games, which were held in Delhi from October 3-14.

"The terms of reference of the proposed JPC, among other things, should include devising a foolproof mechanism to ensure complete transparency in hosting a corruption and scandal free international sporting event in future," BJP President Nitin Gadkari said at a press conference here.

Mr Gadkari said Indian sportspersons had made the country proud by winning as many as 101 medals at the Games. He also said that the opening and closing ceremonies were spectacular and praised the foolproof security arrangements.

"But all was not well with the Commonwealth Games-Delhi 2010. It all looked fine and on track till the bid was won. Then where did we fail and who all nearly let us down? The world community in general and the people of India in particular need to know," he said.

He said the "irregularities and bungling" in the tendering process of various Games-related proejcts were "scandalous involving several thousand crores".

He referred to the allegations about corruption in the organisation of the launch of the Queen's Baton Relay in London late last year "without proper tendering and paperwork".

He said corruption was suspected in the award of tenders for different projects, including stadia and other infrastructure, and grant of contracts for hire or purchase of items such as air-conditioners, treadmills and toilet paper.

Mr Gadkari said he Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India had commented adversely on the cost overruns for the stadium being built or refurbished for the Games.

He referred to the collapse of an under-construction footbridge near the main venue, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, after which the army pitched in by building a temporary structure.

Mr Gadkari said leaders of his party had raised these issues in both Houses of Parliament. He said the party had now prepared a "First Information Report on Commonwealth Games Loot", which alleges that the Government agencies and sports bodies had wasted taxpayers' money, which had resulted in huge cost overruns.

Referring to the inquiry ordered by the Prime Minister into the allegations as well as the probes being conducted by various official agencies, he said the BJP felt these must be expedited and taken to their logical end so that those guilty could be punished without any delay.

"In view of the multiplicity of the agencies involved in this task, we demand that a high-power coordination committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary should be set up to ensure an effective and concerted effort to unearth the scandals. All these investigations must reveal the extent and magnitude of the corruption in different deals and the role of the agencies involved therein for which those found guilty must be taken to task as per the law of the land," he said.

Mr Gadkari said the BJP would extend full cooperation to all the investigative agencies and make available to them the information gathered by its leaders.

"But at the same time, I strongly feel that there is an urgent need to pin point accountability on those who cleared these projects and sanctioned fund allocations from time to time overlooking the serious discrepancies in the project reports and the unreasonable exorbitant cost escalations. It is high time to expose the nexus between the partners in the Commonwealth Games loot and those providing them political patronage by condoning this mess," he said.

"People of India have a solemn constitutional right to know who the real culprits of this national shame are. The truth must prevail and shall prevail only if a comprehensive inquiry in the public domain is held and that is possible only through a Joint Parliamentary probe," he added.