Times of India | 1 year ago | 06-12-2021 | 05:32 am
Margao: Congress observer for Goa, former finance minister, P Chidambaram, on Sunday exhorted party workers from Navelim constituency to sink all their differences and put up a united front once the candidature is announced so as to ensure that Congress retains the seat. Stating that the party has zeroed in on two candidates for the constituency, Chidambaram urged party workers to work wholeheartedly for whoever gets the ticket. Congress suffered a huge setback following the exit of its Navelim MLA Luizinho Faleiro two months ago, who is now the national vice-president of Trinamool Congress (TMC). The Navelim seat, a traditional stronghold of Congress, is likely to witness a fierce battle as Nationalist Congress Partyâs (NCP) Benaulim MLA Churchill Alemao â who is likely to severe ties with NCP and declare his next moves soon â is determined to field his daughter, Valanka, from Navelim. Avertano Furtado who had contested against Faleiro in the 2017 polls as a BJP-backed independent, is now in the Congress camp and among its probable candidates. Speaking further, Chidambaram apologised on behalf of Congress for the defection by several of its MLAs to BJP, betraying the peopleâs mandate. In order to ensure that defections donât recur, Chidambaram said, âSince you will be choosing your candidates, you have to make them accountable so that they donât switch parties.â Exuding confidence that Congress will form the next government in Goa, Chidambaram said, âWhoever wins Goa will win the Parliament election. We won the Goa election in 2007, and in 2009 we won the Parliament election. In 2012 we lost the Goa election and in 2014 we lost the Parliament election. This time we are determined to win Goa and then win India.â Hitting out at the BJP government for rising prices, Chidambaram assured that Congress will reduce taxes once it forms the government. He also said that Congress was exploring ways to generate employment and thereby prevent brain drain. Leader of opposition Digambar Kamat said that people were fed up with the BJP governmentâs false promises, and urged people to bring Congress back in the forthcoming polls.
Interpol removing the Red Notice against Punjab National Bank (PNB) loan fraud case accused Mehul Choksi has brought the focus back on Indian fugitives who are now abroad, with the Opposition on Tuesday taking on the BJP-led Central government. Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said while central agencies were being used against Opposition leaders, the PM’s “Mehul bhai” was getting a free pass. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also hit out at the government over the matter.There are more than 270 Indians against whom a Red Notice has been issued. Of them, more than 30 are economic offenders accused of large-scale money laundering or bank fraud.A look at the status of India’s efforts to get some of the key offenders back to the country:The key accused in the Rs 13,500-crore PNB loan fraud case fled India in January 2018 days before the Central Bureau of India (CBI) registered a case against him. Months before this, he had taken citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean.India’s attempts to get Choksi back have been the most dramatic. Based on requests from CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Interpol issued a Red Notice against Choksi. An extradition request was also subsequently sent to Antigua to get Choksi back. While this remained pending in the court there, Choksi was allegedly kidnapped and ferried in a yacht in May 2021 to Dominica, where the authorities put him under arrest for “illegal entry” after the local media began reporting about his arrival.Subsequently, a private jet carrying officials from the CBI and Ministry of External Affairs arrived in Dominica to get him back to India. However, after the case went to court on grounds of illegal entry against Choksi, the jet had to return.Choksi’s legal team was able to secure bail for him and take him back to Antigua. It also accused the Indian government of orchestrating the kidnapping through its agents in an attempt to deport him to India through Dominica. Later, Dominica dropped all charges against Choksi.In a major setback for India, Interpol, while removing the Red Notice against Choksi, said there was “credible evidence” of his kidnapping and that there were “risks” of him not receiving a fair trial in India. This development could now complicate India’s efforts to extradite Choksi back to India.Choksi’s nephew Nirav Modi, his partner in crime in the PNB case, fled India to London around the same time as Choksi. The CBI got a Red Notice issued against Modi in 2018 followed by an extradition request to the UK. Modi was arrested on India’s extradition warrant in March 2019 and his extradition was approved by the court in February 2021, and by the government that April. Last December, Modi lost his final appeal to the UK Supreme Court following which he should have arrived in India within 28 days after the UK Home Secretary’s assent.However, he has yet to arrive in India. Sources said his extradition was stuck because of another “legal matter” pending in court. This, sources said, was speculated to be an asylum application.The former liquor baron is perhaps the most high-profile of fugitives from India. Mallya is accused of cheating and money laundering in connection with the Rs 9,000-crore Kingfisher Airlines loan fraud case. Mallya left India for London in March 2016 following the CBI’s investigation into the collapse of Kingfisher Airlines.After this, CBI not only got a Red Notice issued against him but sent an extradition request to the UK. Mallya was arrested on an extradition warrant by UK authorities in October 2017 and subsequently, all proceedings were completed. His last appeal against extradition was rejected by the UK Supreme Court in May 2020 following which he should have been extradited to India within days after the UK Home Secretary’s assent.However, his extradition continues to be held up on account of some “secret proceedings” in a UK court that sources say are attempts by Mallya to seek asylum in the UK.The Vadodara-based Sandesaras, including Chetan’s wife Depti and their relative Hansmukh Patel, are accused in the Rs 20,000-crore Sterling Biotech loan fraud case. All have Interpol Red Notices open against them on requests from the CBI and the ED. Shortly before the two agencies began their investigations in 2017, the family left India and reached Nigeria via Dubai.The Sandesaras have since taken citizenship of both Nigeria and Albania and have made massive investments in both countries using the money allegedly siphoned off from Indian banks. While they run an oil business in Nigeria, in Albania they have made investments in the real estate business.India has sent an extradition request to both countries. However, both Nigeria and Albania have refused to honour the Interpol Red Notices and made no positive movement on India’s requests to extradite them. Nigeria’s attorney general’s office has called the case “political” while Albania has been dragging its feet in the name of conducting investigations on India’s charges. In 2019, Albania appointed Nitin Sandesara as an honourary consul to Nigeria.The former Indian Premier League (IPL) chairman, the chief architect of the cricket league, has been under investigation by various agencies in connection with forex violations and a Rs 425-crore TV rights deal with World Sports Group for the 2009 edition of the IPL. After attending just one interrogation session with Income Tax and ED sleuths in Mumbai over some matters related to forex violations, Lalit Modi fled to the UK in May 2010.Chennai Police was the first to register an FIR in connection with the TV rights deal case. Based on it, the ED began money laundering investigations in 2012. Following this, the ED’s multiple requests to Interpol to issue a Red Notice against Modi were not successful. In March 2017, Interpol issued an order not only refusing a Red Notice, but it also deleted all data on Modi from its records.The order, dated March 24, said, “After a thorough examination of elements before it, the Commission concluded that data challenged were not compliant with Interpol’s rules applicable to the processing of personal data, and recommended their deletion.”One of the prime reasons for this has been that neither Chennai Police nor the ED was able to file a chargesheet in the case. In 2017, Tamil Nadu Police wrote to Mumbai Police to take over the case since the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was based in the city. The latter refused to do so and the probe into the primary offence itself has not progressed any further. No extradition request is pending against Modi.Fugitive arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari is being probed in multiple cases by different agencies, including Delhi Police, the Income-Tax Department, the CBI and the ED. Bhandari first came under the scanner of the agencies in 2016 when the I-T Department raided his premises in connection with information about the non-declaration of certain assets he held abroad. This case has now dovetailed into one on certain assets held by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi’s husband Robert Vadra in London.The CBI began a preliminary enquiry in 2016 into Bhandari’s role in the signing of an aircraft deal between the Indian Air Force and Swiss firm Pilatus Aircraft in which kickbacks were suspected to have been paid. This, too, was turned into an FIR. By that time, however, Bhandari had left India for London.Following this, Delhi Police sent a request to Interpol to issue a Red Notice but in 2017 it was declined by the international organisation, which termed the case to be of “political nature”. India sent the UK a request for Bhandari’s extradition in 2019, which was forwarded to the relevant court in June 2020.The following month, Bhandari was arrested.The Westminster Court in London approved India’s extradition request for Bhandari in May 2022 after which it was sent to UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman for her assent. Braverman approved Sanjay Bhandari’s extradition to India on January 17. Subsequently, Bhandari moved the UK High Court against the extradition order.The National Investigation Agency (NIA) booked Islamic preacher Zakir Naik and his organisation Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) under stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) even as the government banned the IRF following revelations that the accused in the 2016 Dhaka cafe attack, in which 22 people were killed, had been inspired by Naik’s speeches.Naik fled India around this time and in 2017 filed an application seeking asylum in Malaysia. While India is pursuing his extradition from Malaysia, Interpol has thrice declined India’s request to issue a Red Notice against him, the last one being in 2021. Interpol has rejected the NIA’s chargesheet in the case saying asking for donations during speeches and promoting religion does not constitute a criminal offence.
The Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday held hearings for the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) to decide whether they should be allowed to retain their national party status, according to two EC sources on Wednesday.The EC had issued show-cause notices to the three parties in July 2019 asking why their national party status should not be revoked after their performance in the Lok Sabha elections that year. Resuming the proceedings, the EC asked the three parties to appear before it on Tuesday.Under Para 6B of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, a party is eligible to be considered a national party if it is a recognised state party in four or more states; if its candidates polled at least 6 per cent of the valid votes in four or more states in the last Lok Sabha or Assembly election and it has at least four MPs elected in the last election; or if it wins at least 2 per cent of the total Lok Sabha seats in at least three states.According to the sources, the review of the national party status was held under Para 6C of the order, which states that the continuation of the recognition as a national party will depend on the fulfilment of the conditions under Para 6B.The EC had also issued notices to six state parties over their continued recognition as state parties. The six parties – the People’s Democratic Alliance, Bharat Rashtra Samithi, Mizoram People’s Conference, Pattali Makkal Katchi, Revolutionary Socialist Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal – were asked to appear for hearings on Monday, an EC source said. While the People’s Democratic Alliance asked for another date and the Mizoram People’s Conference did not attend the hearing, the other four parties attended their hearings, the source said.To be recognised as a state party, as per Para 6A of the order, a party has to fulfil one of the following conditions – have at least 6 per cent vote share in the last Assembly election and a minimum of two MLAs; or have 6 per cent vote share in the last Lok Sabha elections from that state and one MP from the state; or at least 3 per cent of the total seats or three seats, whichever is more, in the last Assembly elections; or one MP for every 25 members of any fraction allotted to the state in the Lok Sabha; or at least 8 per cent of the total valid votes in the last Assembly or Lok Sabha election from the state.
As both Houses of Parliament remain paralysed amid the continuing standoff between the government and the Opposition, the second half of the Budget Session may turn out to be a washout. A sidebar to the conflict between the two sides is the widening of fissures within the Opposition ranks over the leadership of the Congress and Rahul. These developments are dominating the pages of the Urdu dailies as they bring their readers up to speed with their twists and turns.INQUILABCommenting on the gridlock in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha amid the face-off between the Narendra Modi-led BJP government and the Congress-led Opposition — with the BJP demanding an apology from Rahul Gandhi over his critique from the UK of the current state of democracy in India and the Opposition seeking the constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe into the Adani affair — the New Delhi edition of Inquilab, in its editorial on March 18, says this is perhaps the first time that the Treasury benches are stalling the proceedings of Parliament. “When Rahul attended the House after returning from Britain, clarifications should have been sought from him, but it was not done, forcing him to address a press conference,” it states. Rahul said he has a right to respond to the allegations levelled against him by four ministers. ”Rahul told the press conference that he also met the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to convey his position, but the Speaker was non-committal and in his way he smiled,” the daily says.The editorial notes that while addressing various events in the UK Rahul had stuck to his allegation that the Opposition’s voice is being silenced in India under the current regime. “By not letting Rahul speak in the House, the ruling side is reinforcing his charge,” it says. “There is nothing in the remarks Rahul made abroad that could be labelled anti-India. It has already been pointed out that during his foreign visits PM Modi had made similarly critical remarks too.”The editorial says the Treasury benches seem to be bent on stonewalling a debate on the Adani issue. “This could be a bid to deflect attention so that the demand for a JPC probe is shot down,” it says. “However, in this standoff the advantage is with the Congress and Rahul, as the BJP is making its play trickier.”SIASATIn its editorial on March 19, the Hyderabad-based Siasat says that while the ruling BJP seems to have stepped up its campaign against the Opposition parties in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, especially moving to gun for Rahul Gandhi, the Opposition’s attempts to create a joint front against the BJP appear to be faltering. Although the Congress and Rahul himself have tried to downplay the question of their leadership of an Opposition amalgam, the BJP has managed to fuel suspicion in some regional parties that Rahul may emerge as the face of their front, the editorial states.The signals sent by West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee and SP president and ex-UP CM Akhilesh Yadav following their meeting in Kolkata have reflected the cracks in the Opposition unity that would lead to brightening of the BJP’s prospects in the 2024 polls, the daily says.In a snub to the Congress, the TMC leadership and Akhilesh have announced their plan to remain equidistant from the BJP and the grand old party. “A section of the Opposition wants the Congress to lead their ranks against the BJP. Bihar CM and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar is at its forefront. However, another Opposition section comprising of leaders like Mamata, Akhilesh and Telangana CM and BRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao are batting for an anti-BJP front sans the Congress,” the edit notes. After her party’s dismal performance in Meghalaya and Tripura Assembly polls, Mamata had announced that she will go solo in the upcoming polls. But after her meeting with Akhilesh, the TMC has made it clear that she would be engaged in forging a non-BJP, non-Congress alliance, which may even get Odisha CM and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik on board.“Although several Opposition parties including the NCP, Shiv Sena (UBT), DMK, JD(U), RJD, JMM want the Congress’s inclusion in an anti-BJP front, the stand of major regional players like Mamata and Akhilesh have dealt a blow to the bid for a larger Opposition unity, which may undermine their efforts to defeat the BJP in 2024,” the edit says. “In this scenario, the Opposition should review the blueprint for their future course of action.”ROZNAMA RASHTRIYA SAHARAReferring to Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma’s remarks made while addressing a large gathering in Belagavi in the poll-bound Karnataka that he intends to shut down all madrasas in his state, the multi-edition Roznama Rashtriya Sahara, in its editorial on March 19, writes that Sarma is among thoseleaders who remain in the news owing to their various comments. Sarma told the Belagavi event that he has closed 600 madrasas in Assam, but his intention is to shut all madrasas because they are not needed in “New India” that needs schools, colleges and universities, the editorial says. “If Sarma has made these comments in view of the upcoming Karnataka polls it is another matter, but in a democratic country like India he has no right to decide what all the people need.”Underlining that PM Modi talks about “Sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas”, the editorial says CM Sarma’s remarks are at variance with it. “Sarma seems to be unaware of the role played by madrasas in strengthening India. They have played a key role in ensuring subsistence of many poor children, providing them free food and clothes along with education. And they have been ensuring this long before the mid-day meal scheme for school children was launched in the country in 1995,” it states. “Besides religious education, these madrasas should ensure modern education too so that it could benefit all children… The point also remains that less than five per cent of Indian Muslim children are enrolled in madrasas.”Noting that India’s literacy rate as per 2011 Census was 74 per cent, the daily asks Sarma about his plans to impart education to the rest of the population. A 2021 Unesco report said that India needs 11.16 lakh additional teachers to meet the current shortfall and that there are over 1.1 lakh single-teacher schools in the country, it says. “In December 2022, Assam education minister Ranoj Pegu had admitted lack of teachers as well as basic facilities like toilet, water and electricity in the state’s schools. In Assam, 2,979 schools are run by single-teacher, 15,161 are two teacher schools, and 8,207 are three-teacher schools,” the edit says. “Sarma should focus on solving these problems affecting Assam’s schools rather than targeting madrasas.”
Claiming that Opposition unity is a ‘facade’, poll strategist Prashant Kishor has said it would not work in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls against BJP.“If you want to challenge the BJP, you have to understand its strengths – Hindutva, nationalism and welfarism. It is a three-level pillar. If you can’t breach at least two of these levels, then you can’t challenge the BJP,” he said in an interview with NDTV.Elaborating on how the Opposition can counter the BJP, he said, “There has to be a coalition of ideologies to fight the Hindutva ideology. Gandhiwadi, Ambedkarites, socialists, communists…Ideology is very important but you can’t have blind faith on the basis of ideology.” He further added that till the time an “ideological alignment” does not happen, BJP cannot be defeated.Kishor said that his ideology is that of Mahatma Gandhi’s and his Jan Suraaj Yatra in Bihar is “an attempt to revive the ideology of Gandhi’s Congress.”“It is to change the destiny and discourse around Bihar,” he said about the Yatra. “Bihar is known for caste-ridden politics and many wrong reasons. It is time Bihar is known for what people are capable of,” he added.Talking about Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, Kishor said its real test would be in the impact it has made on the ground.“It is not only about walking. In six months of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, there was a lot of praise and also criticism. After six months of walking, you must see some difference? That yatra is to improve a party’s electoral fortunes. I have only been able to cover four districts. For me the yatra is not the mission but to understand the region,” he said.Talking about his fall-out with the Congress, Kishor said, “My goal was the reincarnation of the Congress. Their goal was to win the election. We did not agree on the way they wanted to implement my ideas.”
An Assam political party floated by a former BJP national executive member and the founding national convener of the party’s IT cell will merge with the Congress on Tuesday.The Liberal Democratic Party was formed by Prodyut Bora in 2015 after he quit the BJP, complaining about the “individualised and centralised” style of functioning of the party’s leadership including Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.He told The Indian Express that the party’s decision to merge with the Congress now was prompted by the need of a unified Opposition to take on the BJP. “The kind of aggression the BJP shows across all institutions and places needs to be challenged. The idea of India articulated by our founding father needs to be saved. An overwhelming majority of those within the party felt that that’s a big fight which will be best fought from a larger platform,” he said.Our party, LDP, has taken a decision to merge with the Congress. An overwhelming majority of our Party Members feel that India needs to build an united opposition to change the blanket of hatred and untruth that has enveloped the country. I bow to their collective decision.— Prodyut Bora (@prodyut4assam) March 20, 2023When it was formed, the LDP pitched itself against both the BJP and the Congress. However, it was one of the nine “anti-BJP” parties that joined the Congress earlier this month in a meeting to work towards a united front against the saffron party and its alliance in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.“We had wanted to pick up that fight [against the Congress] as well but eight years down the line, we feel that the more splintered we remain, the more difficult this fight becomes. If we have to keep the larger goal in mind, it is important to transcend personal and party ambitions. We are responding to the political realities,” said Bora.A year after its formation, the LDP contested 14 seats in the 2016 Assembly elections but failed to win any. It did not contest the 2021 elections.