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AAP cries conspiracy as 20 MLAs face disqualification

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Saurabh Bhardwaj

In a major blow to the AAP in Delhi, the Election Commission on Friday recommended disqualification of 20 of its MLAs for holding office of profit as Parliamentary Secretaries, triggering calls for the resignation of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and an angry reaction from the ruling party.

The Election Commission gave its opinion to President Ram Nath Kovind on a complaint by advocate Prashant Patel, a member of the Hindu Legal Cell, in June 2015, who petitioned then President Pranab Mukherjee alleging illegality in the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries.

The decision led to calls by the Congress and BJP — who have been demanding the disqualification — for Kejriwal’s resignation.

The application by Patel said 21 AAP MLAs, including Jarnail Singh (Rajouri Garden) who resigned to contest the Punjab Assembly polls last year, were appointed Parliamentary Secretaries to Ministers in the Delhi government in violation of the Constitution.

The AAP meanwhile approached the Delhi High Court in a bid to stave off the impending action against its MLAs but the court refused any relief saying there was no Commission order and it cannot act on media reports. The matter will come up again on Monday.

The President is bound to act in accordance with the poll panel’s recommendation.

There was no official word from the poll panel. But sources said the Commission’s recommendation had been sent to Kovind.

The move will pave the way for by-polls in Delhi for 20 constituencies of the 70-member assembly. The AAP at present has officially 66 members in the House although some have turned dissidents. The other four seats are held by the BJP.

Even if 20 MLAs are disqualified, the ruling party will still have a comfortable majority in the Delhi Assembly. But by-elections, if called, will put to test Kejriwal’s grip on Delhi.

The MLAs who face the axe are Alka Lamba, Adarsh Shastri, Sanjeev Jha, Rajesh Gupta, Kailash Gehlot, Vijendra Garg, Praveen Kumar, Sharad Kumar, Madan Lal Khufiya, Shiv Charan Goyal, Sarita Singh, Naresh Yadav, Rajesh Rishi, Anil Kumar, Som Dutt, Avtar Singh, Sukhvir Singh Dala, Manoj Kumar, Nitin Tyagi and Jarnail Singh (Tilak Nagar).

The AAP said the EC recommendation was based on false allegations, alleging that the “BJP through its agents seriously compromises the prestige of the EC just to divert the attention of the nation from its all round failures.

“What (the) Modi government appointed Election Commission is leaking to the media is a recommendation made without hearing the arguments of MLAs on the false allegation of office of profit. Such a blatantly biased recommendation will not stand scrutiny in court of law,” Kejriwal’s media advisor Nagendra Sharma said.

AAP chief spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said there was a political conspiracy against the party, alleging that Chief Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Jyoti, a 1975 batch IAS officer who was Gujarat Chief Secretary when Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister, was “paying back” to Prime Minister just a few days before demitting office. Joti’s term expires on Monday.

The Congress and the BJP welcomed the move and asked Kejriwal to step down.

“Kejriwal has no right to continue. Half of his cabinet ministers were removed on corruption charges. Twenty MLAs who were enjoying ministerial perks would be disqualified,” Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken said.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said Kejriwal has lost the moral right to continue. He accused the Chief Minister of acting like a dictator, saying “the party and the government function on the basis of (whatever he says).

“But for the first time, the Constitution has shown him the mirror in a big way,” Patra said.

BJP MLA and Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta said it was “a huge moral defeat” for the Chief Minister and hence he should resign on ethical grounds.

The panel last year in October issued a notice to the AAP MLAs seeking an explanation after rejecting their pleas to drop the ‘office of profit’ case against them.

In March 2015, the AAP government passed an amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997, to exempt the posts of Parliamentary Secretary from the definition of office of profit with retrospective effect.

But then President Mukherjee refused to give assent, following which the appointments were set aside by the Delhi High Court in September 2016, declaring them illegal since the order had been passed “without concurrence/approval of the Lt Governor”.

Politics

I quit BJP only because of Devendra Fadnavis: Eknath Khadse

Welcoming the development, Shiv Sena leader Kishore Tiwari said: “Khadse is a very popular mass-based OBC leader and his departure will prove costly for the BJP and Fadnavis.”

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Eknath Khadse

Mumbai, Oct 21 : Quitting the Bharatiya Janata Party, after remaining in political wilderness for over four years, senior leader Eknath Khadse on Wednesday said he was “leaving only because of Devendra Fadnavis”.

Set to join the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi partner Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Friday, Khadse said that he was targeted by the then Chief Minister and current Leader of Opposition Fadnavis on trumped up charges which have still not been proven.

“My family and I have been humiliated for four years… I had worked hard to build up the party in the state for 40 years and this is what I had to undergo,” Khadse told mediapersons shortly after resigning as a BJP primary member.

Making it clear that he had no grouse against the BJP central leadership, Khadse said that “except state President Chandrakant Patil, no BJP leader has called me up so far”.

Forced to quit as minister in June 2016 following corruption charges when he was the de facto No. 2 in the cabinet headed by Fadnavis, he was denied a BJP ticket in the 2019 Assembly elections.

Khadse pointed out that since then (his quitting), “no party, including Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party or Congress has ever demanded any investigations against me”, despite that he was humiliated for several years in the BJP.

“So many agencies probed me, but nothing came out… Then one lady levelled some molestation charges against me to which Fadnavis asked that a FIR should be lodged against me… This was the low-level politics played against me,” Khadse said.

Among the tallest BJP leaders in the state with huge grassroots support, Khadse, 68, hails from Muktainagar, Jalgaon, and his daughter-in-law Raksha Nikhil Khadse has been elected twice as BJP Lok Sabha MP (2014-2019) from Raver parliamentary seat.

Reputed as an efficient administrator and orator, Khadse was groomed by the late Pramod Mahajan and Gopinath Munde, and is now expected to deflect the Opposition Fadnavis-led BJP’s attacks on the MVA government headed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

Having once tutored Fadnavis in legislative politics, Khadse was ironically bypassed by the central leadership when the party swept the 2014 legislative elections and chose Fadnavis to lead the government.

Since then, they enjoyed an uneasy relationship which ultimately led to Fadnavis asking Khadse — who represented the Muktainagar assembly seat from 1989 till 2019 — to quit the cabinet in 2016.

State NCP President and Minister Jayant Patil announced that Khadse would join the party on Friday afternoon, and along with him many other BJP activists and legislators are likely to follow suit in the coming days.

Welcoming the development, Shiv Sena leader Kishore Tiwari said: “Khadse is a very popular mass-based OBC leader and his departure will prove costly for the BJP and Fadnavis.”

“He is among the few leaders who served as a minister in the Shiv Sena-BJP government of 1995-1999, as Leader of Opposition from 2009-2014, and again as minister when the BJP-Sena regime took over in 2014, till his exit from the cabinet in mid-2016,” Tiwari pointed out.

Hoping to mollify him after denying a poll ticket, in 2019, the BJP fielded his daughter Rohini Khadse-Khevalkar, but she lost the polls, after which his (Khadse’s) supporters charged Fadnavis with engineering her debacle.

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Cities

KCR wants 15 special teams to prevent breach of lakes in Hyderabad

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Telangana CM KC Rao

Hyderabad, Oct 21 : Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao on Wednesday ordered formation of at least 15 special teams to prevent breach of tanks and lakes in Hyderabad.

He asked the official machinery to be on high alert to ensure that tanks and lakes are not breached due to heavy rains and flash floods.

He said the special teams should examine the tanks in the city from time to time and take the necessary measures to prevent any untoward incident. He spoke to Principal Secretary (Water Resources) Rajat Kumar in this regard.

“Hyderabad received heavy rains which were unprecedented in the last hundred years. This has resulted in heavy floodwater inflows. Besides the floodwater in the city, water from the tanks in surrounding areas also entered the city. All the tanks are overflowing with water,” said Rao.

As the Met department has forecast more rains, the entire official machinery should be on a high alert. “As the tanks in city have water to their capacity and there are still flood water inflows coming into them. There is every likelihood of these tanks getting breached causing more damage. Hence, at least 15 special teams with water Resources department officials and staff should be formed. They should examine each and every tank and lake in the city,” the chief minister said.

He asked the teams to identify the tanks that may breach and take precautionary measures. He also wanted repair of the breached tanks.

The CM instructed officials to alert people in low-lying areas and those living in vulnerable places to shift to safer places.

The chief minister’s instructions came amid reports that at least 100 tanks in and around Hyderabad either breached or overflowed, inundating adjoining residential areas. Hundreds of colonies have submerged, affecting more than five lakh people.

Several areas in Chandrayangutta in the old city and in Uppal remained inundated.

Spells of rains with varying intensity in various parts of the city and outskirts since Tuesday have added to people’s woes and affected relief and rehabilitation work in the affected areas.

The forecast of more rains on Wednesday and Thursday has left the people more worried. The administration has already sounded an alert.

Indian Army flood relief teams have been put on standby for anticipated rescue operations of people due to heavy rains forecast for next few days.

The Indian Army said its teams were kept on standby on request of the state government.

Nine flood relief reams with boats are on standby to be launched immediately on requirement. Additional teams and boats will be sent as per the situation, a defence release said.

Heavy rains and flash floods since October 13 have claimed 33 lives in and around the city and caused widespread damage to houses and civic infrastructure.

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India

Harsh Vardhan’s comments unfortunate, aim should be to fight the pandemic unitedly: Rahul Gandhi

“It’s an unfortunate comment. The whole nation has to fight this disease together. I don’t think it’s appropriate to blame someone or the other.

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Rahul Gandhi Farmers

Wayanad (Ker): Describing as “unfortunate” the comments by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on rising COVID-19 cases in Kerala, Congress leader and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said it was not appropriate to blame others and point fingers, but fightthe pandemic unitedly.

With Kerala witnessing a spurt in infections recently, Vardhan had recently said the state was “paying the price for gross negligence” during Onam festivities when unlocking of services along with an increase in travel for trade and tourism led to the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s an unfortunate comment. The whole nation has to fight this disease together. I don’t think it’s appropriate to blame someone or the other.

The spirit should be to overcome this huge challenge.

I had warned in February that India was facing a huge challenge.However, this is not the time to point fingers and we all should work together,” Gandhi said.

He said Kerala follows a decentralised response to the pandemic and the state was giving out a good, decent result.

“The spirit of the people of Kerala, including the health workers, is giving a good decent result here.Of course there are shortcomings like there are in every situation.

But overall I feel the spirit of the people is going to overcome this disease here.The mitigation work in Wayanad is also good,” the Congress MP said.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has, however, said Vardhan’s comments should not be seen as a criticism of the state government’s COVID-19 management.

The chief minister had said on Monday that the COVID-19 situation in the state was under control during and after the Onam festival season as a strict vigil was enforced.

“Our COVID preventive measures were a success but the massive protests across the state by an irresponsible opposition derailed the efforts of the government,” Vijayan said.

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