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Another parliament washout looms over Uttarakhand, Ishrat Jahan issues

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New Delhi, April 23 : With the Congress set to corner the government over the dismissal of the Uttarakhand government and the ruling BJP intending to strongly counter it over “faulty” investigation in cases related to Ishrat Jahan and Lt. Col. Shrikant Purohit, yet another parliament session, this one beginning on Monday, looks set for a washout.

The possibility of the two camps reconciling are remote as the confrontation is at the very top level, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) determined to take on Congress president Sonia Gandhi for “influencing changes” in the Ishrat Jahan affidavit, while the Congress too finds fault with no less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah.

“We do not see any harmony. The acrimonious mood will thus prevail even in both houses in parliament. You can expect washout of another session,” former Samajwadi Party MP Shailendra Kumar told IANS here.

Kumar’s pessimism is not isolated as many sitting lawmakers — from both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha – too feel that scenes of pandemonium would be repeated once again and the much-required Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill will continue to remain stalled.

Moreover, the ruling party has also stepped up attack on former home minister P. Chidambaram alleging that his decision to alter the affidavit on Ishrat Jahan was probably at the instance of higher ups in his party.

“All these certainly seem to slam Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and therefore, reconciliation between BJP and Congress does not appear likely,” the Samajwadi Party leader said.

In fact, the sentiment among non-Congress and non-BJP parties is that the confrontation between the ruling party and the opposition camp has got further aggravated.

“It has become a pattern. Every time on the eve of the parliament sessions, Congress and BJP instead of reaching out to each other try to raise the level of confrontation. The casualty is the smooth functioning of parliament,” a member of Odisha-based regional party Biju Janata Dal told IANS.

Besides eyeing the passage of long-pending Goods and Service Tax Bill, the fate of the National Waterways Transportation Bill, Consumer Protection Bill and the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2016 that seek to improve ease of doing business also hang in the balance. The parliamentary panel’s report on the vexed land acquisition bill is also awaited.

Congress has decided to stick to its aggressive posture on Uttarakhand. Anand Sharma, the party’s deputy leader in Rajya Sabha, where the government is in minority, has already moved a notice for passing of a resolution, criticising the Narendra Modi-led government for imposing President’s Rule in the state.

“It was a gross lapse on the part of government to have dismissed the Harish Rawat government just hours before the trial of strength in the assembly,” Congress Rajya Sabha MP, Ambika Sonia said.

Congress and its allies including the Left parties may also stage protests outside parliament to highlight the Centre’s “misuse of power” and giving cooperative federalism the go by.

On alleged moves by the Modi government to let the Samjhauta Express blast accused Col Purohit off the hook or for dilution of alleged ‘Hindu terror’ cases filed under the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime, the Congress has demanded removal of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) chief Sharad Kumar.

For its part, the BJP members like Anurag Thakur and Kirit Somaiya have said they will raise issues like the Ishrat Jahan case probe in Lok Sabha.

“I will raise these issues in Lok Sabha as the Congress action on Ishrat Jahan not only exposes its prejudiced mind to play vote bank politics, but this has serious impact on national security as a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative was being given out as a helpless and innocent victim while police and security personnel were implicated,” Anurag Thakur told IANS.

The saffron party’s attack against the Congress leadership is likely to be a multi-pronged strategy.

BJP spokesman Sudhanshu Trivedi has already alleged that the saffron terror phrase was first used in 2009 and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had reportedly said in an interaction in July 2010 that ‘Hindu terrorism’ was more dangerous than other terrorism.

“Subsequently home minister P. Chidambaram used the saffron terrorism phrase in parliament in August 2010. Congress leader Digvijay Singh in Mumbai had released a book that had linked the RSS to the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks,” Trivedi alleged and wanted to know “how all these coincidences happened together”.

On behalf of Congress, Ashok Gehlot has accused Modi and Amit Shah of trying to defame the Congress president and vice president in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case to “draw political mileage”.

Responding to the salvo that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi had instructed Chidambaram to change the affidavit, the Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewalla has said that Modi was trying to derail the probe.

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has now called an all-party meeting on Sunday to ensure smooth functioning of the house. But as usual not many are optimistic about the outcome.

Politics

Facebook workers stage virtual walkout over no action on Trump tweet

“We looked very closely at the post that discussed the protests in Minnesota to evaluate whether it violated our policies,” Zuckerberg wrote.

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George-Floyd

San Francisco, June 1 : Several Facebook employees on Monday staged a “virtual walkout” in protest at the social networking giant’s policies regarding a recent controversial post by President Donald Trump on its platform.

The employees took to Twitter, publicly announcing their solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter protests that have seized the nation since the death of African-American George Floyd by a white police officer on May 25.

“Today I am participating in a virtual walkout over Facebook”s recent decisions not to moderate posts that we believe violate our platform standards,” posted one Facebook employee.

Another employee tweeted: “As allies we must stand in the way of danger, not behind. I will be participating in today”s virtual walkout in solidarity with the black community inside and outside FB.”

Several Facebook employees have come out in the open to protest the social media giant”s stand on not taking action on a controversial post from Trump about the Minnesota protests.

“I believe Trump”s ”when the looting starts, the shooting starts” tweet (cross-posted to FB), encourages extra-judicial violence and stokes racism. Respect to @Twitter”s integrity team for making the enforcement call,” David Gillis, Director, Product Design at Facebook, said in a tweet on Sunday.

While Twitter last week put out a “public interest notice” on the tweet for violating the platform”s policies about glorifying violence, Facebook refused to take action when the tweet was cross-posted to its platform.

Defending the decision to not take action on the controversial posts, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday said that its “policy around incitement of violence allows discussion around state use of force”.

“We looked very closely at the post that discussed the protests in Minnesota to evaluate whether it violated our policies,” Zuckerberg wrote.

“Our policy around incitement of violence allows discussion around state use of force, although I think today”s situation raises important questions about what potential limits of that discussion should be,” he said.

“Unlike Twitter, we do not have a policy of putting a warning in front of posts that may incite violence because we believe that if a post incites violence, it should be removed regardless of whether it is newsworthy, even if it comes from a politician,” Zuckerberg added.

In a series of tweets, Gillis argued that policy “needs to evolve” and take more context into account.

“While I understand why we chose to stay squarely within the four corners of our violence and incitement policy, I think it would have been right for us to make a ”spirit of the policy” exception that took more context into account,” he said.

“At any rate, when we have to vigorously debate whether to make an exception to the way we interpret and enforce a given policy (as happened on Friday), this often indicates that said policy needs to evolve. I think that is the case here,” he said.

Another Facebook employee tweeted that he was not proud of how Facebook reacted.

“I work at Facebook and I am not proud of how we”re showing up. The majority of coworkers I”ve spoken to feel the same way. We are making our voice heard,” said Jason Toff, Director of Product Management at Facebook.

–IANS

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Election

Bihar polls: To thwart RJD and capitalise on Hanuman, BJP picks next ‘Tuesday’

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New Delhi/Patna, June 1 : When the Prime Minister said Indians need to learn to live with the coronavirus, BJP took it to heart. Now, notwithstanding the lockdown 5.0, the ruling BJP will sound its Bihar poll bugle next Tuesday.

A BJP functionary says, it has two reasons to choose June 9 for the purpose – it is a Tuesday which is considered auspicious for Hindus since it is the day of Lord Hanuman, a deity who is popular in the Hindi heartland. Another reason being, on June 9, RJD”s Tejaswi Yadav has announced to hold a ”Gareeb Adhikar Diwas”, where his party is expected to raise the offensive against BJP-JDU alliance”s handling of the migrant situation.

Tejaswi Yadav has said that he will appeal to all that on June 9, everyone should come forward and protest with a plate, bowl or banana leaf. “Lalu ji used to say that if we can”t have ”aata” (flour) in our stomach, then what will people do with ”daata”?” Yadav is clearly up for an offensive to harp upon the hunger and light of the poor and marginalized during the subsequent lockdowns.

But to thwart that, the BJP ”Chanakya” himself is likely to sound the poll bugle with his Facebook live on the very same day, where Amit Shah is likely to give a white paper on what the Centre has done for people of Bihar during the pandemic.

Though the central BJP hasn”t either confirmed or denied about the event, the Bihar BJP has already started its work. Sources say, it is likely to be a live stream of Amit Shah which will be broadcast through different social media platforms of the BJP on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and its website.

There are 243 assembly constituencies in the state. Bihar BJP has already started working to ensure one giant screen in each of the 243 assembly constituencies at least where people can be arranged to watch the address of Shah. Given maintaining social distancing is a concern for the party, most of these arrangements will take place not in party offices but in auditoriums, community halls of gram panchayats to ensure there is “do gaz ki doori” among those sitting there.

BJP”s National Chief of Social Media Amit Malviya said that his department hasn”t been notified about the address, so far. But BJP”s Bihar chief Sanjay Jaiswal confirmed that Shah will indeed be the first among many faces who will hold such digital rallies and it will be on June 9. While he claims, more than 1 lakh people will watch that, it includes 38,000 of its cadres who the Bihar BJP expects to connect their phones with Android TVs and arrange a small group of people to watch.

According to the BJP website, Shah’s last rally in Bihar was on January 16, in Vaishali, which was part of a series of such rallies to make a case for the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Meanwhile, the election commission hasn”t taken any decision on whether to hold the Bihar polls, which are scheduled for later this year, on time or defer it due to the pandemic. But that hasn”t stopped BJP from sounding the poll bugle on a ”Tuesday”, considered as the ”day of Bajrang Bali” in this part of India, which state BJP leaders claim will put the party at an advantage.

–IANS

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Election

Deferred due to coronavirus, elections to 18 Rajya Sabha seats to be held on June 19: Election Commission

After the last date of withdrawal on March 18, a total of 37 candidates were declared elected. Obviously, the states from where they got elected saw exactly as many candidates as the number of vacant seats.

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New Delhi, June 1 : The Rajya Sabha biennial polls, which were deferred in March, will now be held on June 19. The results will be declared the same day.

The Election Commission had issued a notification on March 6 for filling 55 Rajya Sabha seats from 17 states. The polling was scheduled for March 26. The last date for filing nominations was March 13.

After the last date of withdrawal on March 18, a total of 37 candidates were declared elected. Obviously, the states from where they got elected saw exactly as many candidates as the number of vacant seats.

Those who made it to the Upper House in the first go included NCP President Sharad Pawar, Union Minister of State and RPI leader Ramdas Athawale (both from Maharashtra) and Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh.

The elections for the remaining 18 seats were postponed due to the Covid-19 induced lockdown and the curfew that followed.

Of the 18 outstanding seats, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat account for four each, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan three each, Jharkhand two and Manipur and Meghalaya one each.

Jyotiraditya Scindia, who defected to the BJP along with 22 MLAs and paved the way for the overthrow of the Kamal Nath-led Congress government in Madhya Pradesh, is in the Rajya Sabha fray on a saffron party ticket from MP.

Also pitted in the contest is senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh. While both are expected to sail through comfortably, Sumer Singh Solanki of the BJP and Phool Singh Baraiya of the Congress will fight it out for the third seat. Congress” prospects are marred by defections and continuing factionalism.

Similarly, Gujarat has four seats, while a total of five people are in the race, three on behalf of the BJP and two as the nominees of the opposition Congress. The BJP is working hard to pick up three seats, leaving only one for the Congress.

The ruling YSR Congress may make a clean sweep of all four seats in Andhra Pradesh. The Telugu Desam Party, with barely 23 people in the 175-member Assembly, is not in a position to garner the 36 votes needed for winning a single seat.

The JMM has fielded party patriarch Shibbu Soren in Jharkhand. The party has left the second seat for its ally, Congress. The BJP has put up its state president Deepak Prakash. The Congress may end up putting up a token fight.

AICC General Secretary K.C. Venugopal is the Congress nominee in Rajasthan. The BJP nominee is Rajendra Gehlot, senior party leader from Jodhpur.

In Manipur, the BJP has fielded former royal Leisemba Sanajaoba. The Congress has put up T. Mangi Babu. The BJP is certain to win the solitary seat.

In Meghalaya, ruling National People”s Party candidate Wanwei Roy Kharlukhi is expected to win by defeating Congress nominee Kennedy Cornelius Khyiem.

–IANS

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