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Ajay Kumar Lallu named new UP Congress chief

Lallu, an MLA from Tamkuhiraj in eastern UP, is from the backward Vaishya community.

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Ajay Kumar Lallu

New Delhi, Oct 7 : Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi on Monday appointed Ajay Kumar Lallu as the new Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) chief.

The appointment of Lallu came on the recommendation of Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi, who announced the party’s new Uttar Pradesh team on Monday.

The new team has no big names but the Congress has tried to balance social equations among the office bearers, comprising four Vice Presidents, 12 General Secretaries and 24 Secretaries.

Lallu, an MLA from Tamkuhiraj in eastern UP, is from the backward Vaishya community.

Congress spokesperson Rajiv Tyagi is one of the General Secretaries.

Aradhna Mishra has been named the new leader of the Congress Legislative Party. A second term MLA from Rampur Khas, she is the daughter of veteran leader Pramod Tiwari.

The new appointments may upset senior leaders as many were expecting a larger role.

However, to placate them, Priyanka Gandhi has also set up an 18-member advisory council, whose members include senior leaders like Salman Khurshid, Rashid Alvi and Tiwari.

She has also constituted an eight-member planning group, which has former Union Minister Jitin Prasad in it.

This new team is not a jumbo body but a smaller unit with a task to accomplish. A close aide to Priyanka Gandhi said that those with grass roots connections and zeal to go out at the ground level have been given responsibility.

The whole exercise for picking the new team has been going on since the Lok Sabha debacle, when the Congress won just one seat in the state, losing even the party bastion, Amethi, which was held by then party chief Rahul Gandhi.

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Political vendetta behind CBI raids: Manipur Congress

The raids took place on Friday when the former Chief Minister was in Delhi to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and the Naga Accord at Jantar Mantar.

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Okram Ibobi Singh

Guwahati, Nov 22 : The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted simultaneous raids at the official and private residences of former Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh in Imphal and Thoubal since Friday morning even as the opposition Congress in the northeastern state indicated political vendetta behind the move.

The raids were regarding alleged misappropriation of government funds to the tune of Rs 332 crore of the Manipur Development Society, meant for development work in the state, sources said.

The CBI sleuths remained tight lipped over the issue and refused to comment.

Sources, however, said that the raids continued for five hours at multiple locations including the residences of the former Manipur Chief Minister.

“The raids at Ibobi’s house started at the former Chief Minister’s official residence at Babupara and private residence at Thoubal Athokpam Makha Leikai at around 7.30 a.m.,” sources said.

The raids took place on Friday when the former Chief Minister was in Delhi to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and the Naga Accord at Jantar Mantar.

“The raids are clear reflection to threaten and silence the Opposition. The timing of the raids also makes it clear that they are driven by political vendetta,” said spokesman of the Manipur Congress Ningombam Bupenda Meitei.

A few days back, while addressing a press conference in Guwahati, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said that the BJP is using a trident of CBI, ED and Income Tax (IT) directorate to get a majority in the Rajya Sabha.

The CBI has registered a case against Okram Ibobi Singh, who was the then Chairman of the Manipur Development Society, Y. Ningthem Singh, former Project Director of MDS, D.S. Poonia, IAS (Retd.), the then Chairman of MDS, P.C. Lawmuknga, IAS (Retd.), the then Chairman of MDS, O. Nabakishore Singh, IAS (Retd.), who was the then Chairman, S. Ranjit Singh, Administrative Officer, MDS and others on the request of the Manipur Government and further notification from the Centre.

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Did BJP make last-ditch attempt to lure back Thackeray?

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uddhav thackeray Shiv Sena

Mumbai, Nov 22 : A dejected Bharatiya Janata Party is said to have made “a desperate last-minute” attempt to win over its former ally Shiv Sena back to its fold, authoritative party sources revealed on Friday.

This included a wake-up call to the Sena chief Udhav Thackeray’s house, ‘Matoshri’ around 3 a.m. on Friday, virtually dragging him out of the bed after he had returned home at 1 a.m. from a meeting at Nationalist Congress Party Sharad Pawar’s home late Thursday night.

“Top BJP leaders from New Delhi conveyed that the party is ready to accept any conditions made by the Sena, including the post of CM for the full term, ministries of his choice and even numerical adjustments if required at the Centre and state,” said the source, requesting anonymity.

The erstwhile ally was also ready to forgive and forget, patch up the alliance again and even include the Sena back to the NDA from where it was ejected on November 17 without notice – the day when Sena was observing the seventh death anniversary of its founder, the late Bal Thackeray.

However, Thackeray reportedly gave the leaders – whose names are not revealed – a patient hearing, but politely informed that it is not possible to take a u-turn after going such a long distance with the upcoming alliance of the Sena with the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress.

The frantic efforts came after at least two days of complete lull on the part of Maharashtra BJP whose leaders made open claims that “come what may, the BJP would form the government with the Sena” and later dropped hints that it was also negotiating a deal with the NCP and others.

Even the Nagpur-headquartered RSS is reportedly cheesed off by the developments in its home state Maharashtra and is now said to be pointing a finger at former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for spoiling the saffron broth after the elections.

Sections of the BJP have also not taken too kindly to Fadnavis’ adamance on the post of Chief Minister since the past one month, which he claimed repeatedly after the October 21 elections.

Sena MP Sanjay Raut gave a hint on the party’s mood when he was asked Friday whether the party would return to the BJP fold if it was given the post of CM.

“This is now a fight for the dignity and self-respect of Maharashtra. Now, even if we are offered the throne of (Lord) Indra, we are not interested… That time has elapsed,” Raut declared.

Significantly, after the unsuccessful efforts to wean the Sena back to the BJP, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari hit out saying this was “an opportunistic alliance coming up in Maharashtra and would not last for very long”.

After getting on firm grounds with the upcoming Maha Vikas Aghadi in the state, NCP national spokesperson Nawab Malik took a swipe at the BJP.

He said that “finally, Sharad Pawar has outsmarted” the alleged aChanakya’ of Indian politics, as the three parties appeared set to stake claim to the Maharashtra government.

Though obviously referring to BJP President and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, without taking any names, Malik tweeted that “the throne of Delhi failed to make Maharashtra bend before ita Jai Maharashtra!”

As per current indicators, after the Sena-NCP-Congress and other parties have unanimously accepted him as the choice for CM, Thackeray is likely to consider the proposal positively and convey his decision to the other parties in the proposed Maha Vikas Aghadi in a day or so.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at [email protected])

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Uddhav unanimous choice for Maharashtra CM: Pawar

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Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray

Mumbai, Nov 22 : A crucial two-hour long meeting of the Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress concluded here on Friday evening with a call to Sena President Uddhav Thackeray to accept the post of Maharashtra Chief Minister.

Emerging from the meeting, NCP President Sharad Pawar indicated that a consensus had evolved on Thackeray’s name for the top post.

“There is unanimity on the name of Uddhav Thackeray for Chief Minister’s post. Now, he must take it up,” Pawar said.

He added that Friday’s discussions centred around the Common Minimum Programme (CMP), saying that important decisions have been taken in this regard.

However, Uddhav Thackeray has reportedly sought time to think over the proposal and is likely to convey the same to the NCP-Congress later tonight or Saturday morning, according to a party source.

Significantly, after the meeting in Nehru Centre, Worli, Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aditya Thackeray paid an unscheduled visit to the Balasaheb Thackeray National Memorial and paid homage to the Sena founder.

On his part, Uddhav Thackeray said that he did not want to share “any incomplete information on anything”.

“The discussions were held in detail and efforts are on to ensure no issues are left out. Discussions are still on. When everything is finalised, we shall share with you,” Uddhav Thackeray said.

Among the constraints being discussed within the Sena is how to prevent two independent power centres from developing if Uddhav Thackeray becomes the Chief Minister — one at the government level and the other at the party level.

Senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said that Friday’s discussions were very fruitful and positive.

“However, the talks are not yet completed… It will be continued again tomorrow,” Chavan said.

NCP leader Praful Patel also spoke on similar lines and said that after everything is finalised, it will be informed to the media.

The proposed ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ comprising the Sena-NCP-Congress is likely to hold a press conference on Saturday where the final details will be shared with the media.

“After the press conference tomorrow, we shall make attempts to stake claim at the earliest possible opportunity,” NCP national spokesperson Nawab Malik said.

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