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News Watch 30 Jan 2009

HEADLINES

  • Nationally, Cong wants to go solo, not as UPA (IE)
  • LS polls: Jaspal Rana, Rajnath's doctor in BJP's latest list (IE)

LEAD

Hours after Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa said he "won't allow pub culture" in the state, one of his daughters Umadevi said: "It's for women to decide if they would like to visit pubs or any other public place, and that govt, politicians or outfits like the Sri Rama Sene cannot restrict their movements". "If she is an adult woman, it's for her to take a call on whether to go to a pub or not. If she is not an adult, the issue is then essentially between the child and her parents. There is no role for anyone else in this," Umadevi told The Indian Express. Umadevi, who runs Candor Business Solutions Pvt Ltd, a BPO in Bangalore, said "individual freedoms" cannot be regulated and agreed that Bangalore is also known for, among other things, its pubs. "It's essentially a clash of values between the families who are comfortable with pub culture and the families who are not. It's therefore for the parents to decide for their children, and the adults then to take a call for themselves. Others don't have a role in this," said the 37-year-old entrepreneur who has never been to a pub. (IE)

  • New Delhi: Amid reports that Pakistan had found no evidence linking it to the Mumbai terror attacks, India on Thursday said it expected Islamabad to act on commitments. "We are expecting Pakistan to act," External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters here when asked to comment on reports that Pakistani investigators had found that the attacks were not planned in their country. He pointed out that India had not given Pakistan any deadline to complete the investigation into the dossier given by investigators on the probe into the attacks. "They fix the deadlines. We did not give them any deadline. And we see that they should comply with it," Mr. Mukherjee said. Two Pakistani Presidents had given commitments to New Delhi that the country's territory will not be allowed to be used for launching attacks against India.(HINDU)
  • New Delhi: Looking to press home an age advantage over rival BJP, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi has spoken of fielding 30% younger faces in the approaching Lok Sabha polls even if these include constituencies seen un-winnable. Speaking at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee on Thursday, Rahul qualified his call for a "quota" of sorts for youthful aspirants by stating that these need not be plum seats where a win is assured. He said that even if these seats were those where Congress had traditionally done poorly, younger nominees could make a difference. Though the percentage to be earmarked for younger candidates was not discussed specifically, the figure of 30% can be a positive talking point given Congress's move to project itself as a natural choice for the younger voter. Along with the theme of younger candidates, Congress strongly rebuffed attempts of pushy allies like NCP to demand seats outside their spheres of influence, by making it clear that it had a statewise arrangement with allies and not a "national" link-up. Briefing the media, party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said Congress did not favour the idea of a UPA manifesto, inviting a sharp retort from NCP. (TOI)
  • New Delhi: With an eye on the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, over 4,000 clerics and locals from Azamgarh in UP camped on Parliament Street for over seven hours on Thursday, demanding a time bound judicial probe into the Batla House encounter. Aimed at gaining political mileage and polarising Muslim votes in Azamgarh, leaders of Ulema Council announced they would field two candidates from Azamgarh Sadar and Lal Ganj. The objective: To launch a political party which will 'protect' Muslim interests in north India. The Ulema Council was formed in Azamgarh immediately after the Batla House encounter in November last year. The man behind it is Maulana Amir Rashidi Madani, whose son, Talha Amir, was arrested by the Maharashtra ATS for allegedly abetting terrorism and was released on bail early this month. Different state police wings have claimed to have traced the roots of the recent spate of terror attacks to Azamgarh in eastern UP and the Council was formed to stop the alleged 'harassment' of educated youth by police and other security agencies, claimed its members. (TOI)
  • NEW DELHI: Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora said on Thursday that the UPA govt had fulfilled its promise to provide relief to the common man by slashing prices of fuel, especially LPG. Talking to newsmen here, Mr. Deora said the govt had passed on the benefit of the falling international crude oil prices to the people. It was a historic price cut, as petrol prices had been brought down by Rs. 10 a litre and diesel by Rs. 4 a litre within two months. "The Cabinet has given its seal of approval to the desire of PM Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi to give relief to the masses. The fuel prices are now at the June 2006 level, which is unprecedented."(HINDU)

MANMOHAN SINGH & GOVT

PM Manmohan Singh is likely to take a while to fully get back to his official duties with foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee expected to deliver the speech accompanying the vote on account the govt will seek after Parliament meets on February 12. The PM's post-surgery recovery at AIIMS has been quite satisfactory and it is expected that he may be discharged by Saturday afternoon. But while this would be on expected lines, his stay at the institute might be extended to "early" next week if the doctors feel this to be desirable. The PM's recovery following a complication-free heart surgery has made doctors feel upbeat about Singh moving to residence soon, but they rule out any activity like attending Parliament regularly, or delivering a speech in LS on February 16 when the vote is sought. That would be too taxing and is not recommended. (TOI)

  • New Delhi: The global financial meltdown has put "affordable housing" on the top of the govt's agenda, with PM Manmohan Singh asking state govts to launch new housing schemes for low and middle income segments. The PM, who had written to CMs seeking their support in speedy implementation of central initiatives to beat the impact of economic slowdown, has emphasised on giving priority to housing sector, considering its role in employment generation and boosting economic activity. In a letter to CMs, the PM said, "At this critical juncture, states should come out with new housing schemes, particularly for low income and middle income groups to provide affordable shelter to people while also providing a fillip to economic activity." The PM added, "You may like to give this matter your highest priority." The housing sector has a multiplier effect on employment generation, manufacturing demand and income creation. A concerted boost to housing construction at this juncture would have immediate benefits for the economy and positive effect on state GDP. (TOI)

BJP

In a clear indication that BJP will contest the Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal without an alliance with Mamata Banerjee, central leadership has asked the state unit to look for a "strong candidate" to be fielded against the Trinamool leader in the Kolkata South seat. This means that the BJP's 10-year alliance with Trinamool is about to end. BJP will also put up a strong candidate against Union minister and Congress state unit chief Pranab Mukherjee in the Jangipur constituency, which earlier was contested by TMC as part of the seat sharing arrangement with the saffron party. The party will also field candidates for all the 42 Lok Sabha seats from the state, unlike the past 10 years of alliance with TMC when BJP got the smaller share of seats. "We had put up a demand for putting up candidates against Mamata Banerjee and her TMC and the central leadership has given us the go ahead on Thursday," said Rahul Sinha, senior BJP leader from the state, who will himself contest from Bankura. "From today, we will start looking for a strong candidate against Mamata and Pranab Mukherjee," he told TOI from Kolkata. (TOI)

CONGRESS

The Congress on Thursday ruled out any "national alliances", a clear message to the UPA allies that are pressuring it for a nationwide seat-sharing arrangement for the general elections. "There will be no national alliance with any party. However, the existing seat-sharing arrangements that we have with our allies in various states will remain as such," said AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi after the Congress Working Committee meeting on Thursday. Political watchers said the "rebuff" was clearly aimed at UPA allies like the Nationalist Congress Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Lok Janshakti Party, which have been exerting pressure on the Congress to go in for pre-poll alliances on an all-India basis. Stating that the UPA, formed after the 2004 Lok Sabha results, remains intact, the AICC general secretary clarified the Congress' poll-strategy: "Barring the states where we already have alliances, we will ask for votes on our own in the rest of the country. The UPA is very much there, but individual parties will contest the Lok Sabha polls." This means the Congress will ask people to vote for its allies wherever alliances exist, but will play on its own strength elsewhere. In a way, this is also a reiteration of the party's national stature, said sources. "There are only two national parties, the INC and the BJP. All others are notional national parties," said a senior Congress functionary. Observing that it will pursue the new alliance with the SP in UP "with an open mind", Congress sources said the respective state leaderships, in consultation with the All-India Congress Committee, would work out future electoral tieups, a reference to talks with the Trinamul Congress in West Bengal and Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka.(AA)

I. CURRENT AFFAIRS

Col took part in Malegaon meets: An Indian Army colonel, Bapaditya Dhar, participated in the conspiracy meeting attended by Malegaon blast accused, to convert India into a 'Hindu Rashtra', according to the chargesheet by the ATS. Dhar is also an ATS witness. (TOI)

Pak reports say Kasab may be dead: As Pakistan comes under renewed international pressure to respond to India's demands, it's gone back to playing the disinformation game with reports alleging that captured terrorist Ajmal Kasab is actually dead. (TOI)

STATES

ANDHRA PRADESH

Gattu Ramachandra Rao, a leader who was suspended from CPI (Marxist), after a brief stint in Praja Rajyam, joined the Congress along with 100 others on Thursday. Mr. Rao, who rebelled against the CPI(M) State leadership last year owning to the style of functioning of certain leaders, met CM Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy along with his supporters and formally joined the ruling party. The CM welcomed the new members. Nalgonda district PR minority cell convenor Rafat Sultana and others also joined the Congress.(HINDU)

KARNATAKA

The Lokayukta police on Thursday trapped a BJP MLA while he was allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs. 5 lakh Rs. 50,000 in cash and the rest as a cheque at the Legislators' Home here. This is the first time in Karnataka that a legislator has been booked for alleged acceptance of bribe. He is now in judicial custody. Y. Sampangi, representing Kolar Gold Fields reserved constituency, reportedly demanded Rs. 5 lakh from Farook, a businessman from Andersonpet, to close a case regarding a disputed site in Kolar Gold Fields. Giving details, Lokayukta N. Santhosh Hegde told presspersons that Mr. Farook's site was taken over by Illias, Nayaaz and Khan Fiaz, with forged documents. Mr. Farook filed a case in the civil court and tried to lodge a complaint against the three persons with the Andersonpet police, which turned it down and instead registered a complaint against him by the other three.(HINDU)

  • Karwar: All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPB) will hold a meeting to discuss and decide the issues before it on February 7 at Bhatkal, said Yahya Damudi, media convener of AIMBP conference. Mr. Damudi told presspersons here on Thursday that the Allahabad High Court was expected to deliver its verdict on the Babri Masjid issue as the court had completed the hearing. The AIMPB would discuss the probable fallout of the judgment of the High Court in the matter. The Supreme Court was hearing a public interest petition filed by a private individual in respect of Islamic Sharia court. The Personal Law Board should examine the case in its meeting. Despite Parliament passing a Bill in respect of maintenance allowance for Muslim women, some courts had given judgment contrary to the Bill and the Sharia, he alleged. The board should consider steps to check the wrong interpretation of Sharia and ways and means to see that court follow Sharia as rules of decisions in all disputes related to Muslim family matter, he said. (HINDU)

MAHARASHTRA

A three-member team of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) will be dispatched to question Sri Ram Sene chief Pramod Muthalik in Mangalore, where he was produced in a court on Thursday amid heightened security and sent in judicial custody for one day. The ATS will quiz him in connection with the Malegaon bomb blast of September 2008. Joint Commissioner of Police (ATS) K P Raghuvanshi told The Indian Express that a team had left on Thursday to question Muthalik. He said soon after the arrest of Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, Muthalik had made a statement, terming the blast a "fitting reply from Hindus against the alleged atrocities heaped upon them". "We have asked for the footage from the Kannada channel which had recorded it," added Raghuvanshi. (IE)

PUDUCHERRY

The Congress will stake claim for the lone Lok Sabha seat from the Union Territory in the coming elections, according to Pradesh Congress Committee chief A.V. Subramanian. The PCC has decided to convey its interest to the All India Congress Committee, he said. A meeting of the Senior Advisory Council, headed by Chief Minister V. Vaithilingam, had passed a resolution urging the High Command not to relinquish the seat. "The Union Territory is a bastion of the Congress party and we do not want to play second fiddle. Last time we were compelled to give the seat because of various reasons and in the coming elections we want to put up a candidate at any cost," Mr. Subramanian told Hindu The here on Thursday. Asked whether the alliance would continue, he said, "We want to strengthen the party without disturbing the alliance. The alliance can continue or change." (HINDU)

RAJASTHAN

In an unusual gesture for a minister, Bharat Singh, Panchayati Raj Minister in the newly sworn in Congress Govt in Rajasthan, led a protest rally of nature lovers in Kota demanding National Park status for the Mukandra sanctuary falling in his constituency Sangod. More than a thousand people including noted conservationists "Tiger Man" Fateh Singh Rathore and Harsh Vardhan, marched along with the Minister about three kilometres inside the sanctuary to highlight "inaction" on the part of the State Govt to follow up the decision made during the term of the previous Govt in the State in 2006. The State had notified this reserve, situated in the neighbourhood of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station, Rawatbhata, as a National Park on March 10, 2006. "I had taken up the issue with the Govt led by Vasundhara Raje but she initiated no action to complete formalities to raise its status as a National Park," remarked Mr. Singh, who addressed the rally at Kolipura Forest Chowki inside the reserve. (HINDU)

WEST BENGAL

The latest BJP list of candidates for the Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal announced on Thursday had a surprise name that of one-time CPI(M) comrade Bratin Sengupta who was chosen for the Barasat seat. Although tickets to state BJP regulars like Rahul Sinha (Bankura) and Tathagata Roy (Kolkata North) were expected, the inclusion of Sengupta in the list of 17 was not. Sengupta, a former Rajya Sabha member, had quit the CPI(M) to join the BJP in 2001 following differences with the party leadership. He was said to have been close to CPI(M) patriarch Jyoti Basu. "I am happy that the BJP has nominated me as the candidate from the Barasat constituency. Our campaign is as much to improve the lot of the common man in Bengal as it is to end three decades of Marxist misrule in the state," Sengupta told The Indian Express. (IE)

II. INDIA & THE WORLD

 
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