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BJP fawn club: How Bollywood seeks to cosy up to government

Amitabh, one of Indian cinema’s most globally recognised faces and whose friends-turned-foes history with the Congress is not unknown, has been made brand ambassador for the Goods and Services Tax (GST), a sweeping tax reform set to roll out on July 1.

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Akshay Kumar Meets PM Modi
File Photo IANS

New Delhi, June 23: “One Nation, One Tax, One Market”, affirms Amitabh Bachchan in a video on the virtues of GST, while Akshay Kumar is out to make his “humble contribution to Swachh Bharat” through his new film “Toilet: EK Prem Katha”.

Bollywood, it seems, is striving to stay on the right side of the ruling dispensation.

Amitabh, one of Indian cinema’s most globally recognised faces and whose friends-turned-foes history with the Congress is not unknown, has been made brand ambassador for the Goods and Services Tax (GST), a sweeping tax reform set to roll out on July 1.

It is not surprising because Amitabh has remained in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s good books for quite some time. Remember, Gujarat Tourism’s “Khushboo Gujarat Ki” campaign with Amitabh as the brand ambassador?

The Congress, on whose ticket the megastar had contested the Lok Sabha election from Allahabad in 1984, is clearly not happy.

But it is worth mentioning that during the Congress regime only, Unicef had appointed the megastar Goodwill Ambassador for Polio Eradication in India. It was a success, given that the nation was declared polio-free in 2014 by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“Both Prime Minister (Modi) and Finance Minister (Arun Jaitley) know that the government is not ready nor does it have the infrastructure to roll out GST. That’s why it is using a legend like Amitabh Bachchan so that he becomes the fall guy and has to face the brickbats,” Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam has said.

When it comes to campaigns, Big B is certainly a lucky mascot.

What does the actor have to say?

“I was asked, I did it,” the 74-year-old veteran, who endorses other government initiatives like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and is recently seen in ‘Darwaza Band’ campaign, tweeted about his decision to push the GST buzz.

As far as Akshay is concerned, he is doing his bit through films like “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha” and “PadMan”.

A dekko at the trailer of “Toilet…” hints at how Akshay’s entertainer will perhaps set an example of wielding Bollywood’s soft power in giving a hard push to menacing social concerns like open defecation, gender discrimination and myths around menstruation.

“Here is my humble contribution towards a Swachh Bharat, ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’ trailer,” read a social media post from Akshay, who even met Modi to talk about his movie last month.

“Good effort to further the message of cleanliness,” Modi lauded the actor.

The latest in the grapevine is that Akshay, who won the Best Actor National Award for “Rustom” earlier this year, has landed a chance to play Modi in a film. Some contrary reports refute that claim — but from what one can tell, Akshay is in the good and ‘right’ books.

There are more.

Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar’s “Indu Sarkar” is making a noise ever since the launch of its poster featuring Neil Nitin Mukesh bearing resemblance to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The film captures the Emergency period of India during the rule of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975 — obviously ruffling up feathers in the Congress.

In his defence, Bhandarkar says the film is “70 per cent fiction and 30 per cent realism”, that he has not named any politician and that the project is “not sponsored”.

Even the government-backed censor board, which is readily asking filmmakers to bring NOCs for films on real life personalities, is ready to offer leniency to Bhandarkar as his project takes no names.

Veteran actor Anupam Kher, who is in “Indu Sarkar”, is also going to play former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in “The Accidental Prime Minister”.

The film will be based on a book by Singh’s media adviser Sanjaya Baru, who had controversially depicted his former boss as not being in full control of his own cabinet and being subservient to Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

Prodded about playing a Congress man, the pro-BJP actor, whose wife Kirron Kher is a BJP MP from Chandigarh, told IANS in a recent chat: “It’s too early to talk about it.”

But at a press conference he took a dig at Singh, saying: “It is not a silent film.”

A master of wit and sarcasm, Rishi Kapoor had last year stirred a political storm with tweets slamming the Congress party for naming important places such as roadways, railways and airports after the Nehrus and Gandhis.

Back then, the Congress said people were targeting the Gandhis “to get into the good books” of the ruling BJP, which has a string of Bollywood supporters like Paresh Rawal, Hema Malini and Shatrughan Sinha.

They say films are a mirror to the society and Bollywood fraternity is certainly doing its bit to propagate the initiatives of the NDA government by highlighting them in their cinematic offerings.

By Radhika Bhirani
(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at [email protected])

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World gearing up for a third world war : UK warns of Russian threat

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There is a growing unease in United States and Britain about Russia  progressing in achieving “Eurasian Union” of former Soviet republics along the lines of the European Union under Vladimir Putin. Britain has warned that Russia is the biggest threat to UK’s security since the end of the Cold War. Drawing similarities with the 1914 First World war, UK defence secretary Gavin Williamson has equated Moscow to North Korea after Russia has threatened to unleash nuclear war.

Due to the Russians’ presence in the Mediterranean region and the Kremlin’s “increased assertiveness,” it is time Britain gets stronger, he said. This comes just a week after Britain ordered ships to pass the disputed South China Sea, much closer to the Chinese coast than the white cliffs of Dover.

General Nicholas Carter has also warned that Britain will be unable to preempt or respond to Russian aggression unless its military capabilities are overhauled to match Moscow’s military capabilities. Since 2000, Putin has been Russia’s most powerful man after the resignation of Boris Yeltsin, holding positions of both prime minister and president and had been consistently working to achieve superpower status for Moscow and global hegemony equivalent to US.

The West became cautious of Puin moves after the Russian seizure of Crimea in March 2014, followed by its annexation. UK former defence secretary, Sir Michael Fallon issued calls for increased defence spending, citing growing threats from Russia and cyber-attacks.

Fallon admitted that Britain has all the evidence of Putin’s intent to subvert western democracies, from the Netherlands to Montenegro, from Germany to even the United States.” “Through cyber, our enemies can target us anywhere on the planet: not only stealing our information, but exploiting us, coercing us, disrupting our energy supplies, our armaments, even our governments. Almost anybody can become a cyber-warrior: a laptop and some smart software can inflict enormous financial and physical damage on individuals and entire countries.”

To establish foothold in Middle East, Russia has significantly increased its military operations to Syria. Taking forward the geopolitical and ideological idea, Putin called for the Eurasian Movement of the Russian Federation, and said that there is a unique “Eurasian” civilization in Russia and its neighbors, distinct from both East and the West.

To pursue his goal, Putin clinched free trade pacts with countries to form Eurasian Union. The Russian leader is aggressively trying to achieve Eurasian integration process due to many common factors binding Russia and the European countries together : common history, geographical proximity, massive amounts of trade, etc. But confrontation is most likely between Russia and Europe.

The tensions between Russia and the West escalated after Russia air force purchased 10 of the strategic TU-160M nuclear bombers, code named Blackjacks by NATO. The TU-160M worth 15 billion rubles ($269 million) is capable of carrying 12 cruise missiles or 12 short-range nuclear missiles and can fly 7,500 miles non-stop without refuelling. US, UK and Europe are worried over Putin standing for re-election on March 18 – a poll showing he is likely to win.

Russia has deployed over 330,000 soldiers on its western border while NATO has stationed biggest military build-up on Moscow’s borders since the cold war. Moreover, Russia carried out simulated attack exercises across northern Europe, from Kaliningrad to Lithuania, as part of a new tactic in exploiting the gray areas between peace and war.

Talking about the military hardware, Britain fighter jets are stationed in Romania, US tanks, troops, artillery has been deployed in Poland to counter the Russian warships armed with cruise missiles in Baltic Sea.

An armada of Russian ships from the Baltic Fleet have been dispatched from Baltiysk naval base, in Kaliningrad Oblast, for large scale military exercises. Sweden, whose eastern coast borders the Baltic Sea, is issuing the advise for the first time since 1961 – the height of the Cold War.

U.S. National Security Strategy released by Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster states Russia and China are “revisionist” powers, genuine geopolitical rivals to the United States that “challenge American power, influence and interests,” while “attempting to erode American security and prosperity.”

Russia military has been deeply engaged in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine since April 2014, where fighting has claimed 10,000 lives. The United States, European Union and other Western countries are continuing to put political and economic pressure on the Kremlin. Putin’s Russia is active today. “Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus, and Ukraine—he is either trying to get those countries back into his realm .

Washington approved for the first time lethal weapons sales to Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed militias and the announcement of a new U.S. sanctions list that targets Russians such as the Kremlin-appointed strongman in Chechnya.

Russia denounced the American strategy document as an “imperialist” relic of a delusional superpower that persisted in acting unilaterally on the world stage.

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By: Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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Royal Orchid announces the opening of group’s newest hotel in Nashik

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 Royal Orchid Hotels, the fastest growing hospitality chain in India today announced the opening of its new hotel in Nashik named ‘Regenta Resort Soma Vine Village’. Nashik popularly known as the wine capital of the country has gained immense popularity among the tourist in India.

Regenta Resort Soma Vine Village, with 32 rooms offers boutique accommodation with varied dining and banquet facilities. The glorious property will give travelers a mesmerizing experience and contemporary luxury.

On-site amenities at the hotel include a completely refreshed restaurant, a winery, a state-of-the-art fitness center and outdoor pool, as well as a business centre, and spa services. The hotel has a wide range of facilities that let the guests choose from various room categories designed in keeping the touch of the city with elegance and relaxing atmosphere.

Located in the northern part of the state of Maharashtra, Nashik is developing as a lively city with a blend of the ancient and modern touches attracting tourists from across the country. The city has numerous forts, temples, historic sites as well as a home to industries. The city offers green pastures, mountains and tours of the wine yard.

The most important attraction of the city includes Vineyards and Hindu temples situated in and around Nashik. May it be an important corporate event or a business meet or a simple getaway to explore nature and feel the essence of spirituality, Regenta Resort Soma Vine Village allows enormous options to its guests. The guests can experience the beauty and culture of Nasik just by availing one of the several facilities that the hotel provides to its patrons.

Chander K. Baljee, Managing Director, Royal Orchid Hotels said, “The hotel is the perfect complement to our recently refreshed Regenta portfolio of hotels across India. We are taking continuous steps towards expanding our presence all over India. The new hotel in Nasik is one such move towards achieving our aim. The government push toward tourism sector is giving us the much needed enthusiasm to go aggressive in adding new properties to our bouquet. Going forward we will continue to add more properties to both-explored and unexplored tourist destinations”

By now we have added eight properties – Mysore, Ahmedabad, Dehradun, Kanpur, Dwarka, Indore, Pushkar and now Nasik in the current fiscal year taking the number to 49 hotels. We will continue our efforts in expanding our presence all over India”.

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Nationalism of Narendra Modi is under question

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The economic bungling by Jeweller Nirav Modi, Business tycoon Vijay Mallya  and Lalit Modi has put a serious  question mark on the nationalism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His conspicuous silence on  India’s largest banking fraud to the tune of Rs 11,400-crore and still counting is shocking as he repeatedly claimed to have won the huge mandate on the basis of giving achhe din to the people of India but crony capitalists have escaped India with taxpayers’ money and there is no clarification from Narendra Modi who has taken the voter for a ride.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi advised Prime Minister Narendra Modi  to speak on  the Nirav Modi and Rafale scams rather than seeking suggestions for his Mann Ki Baat programme from the general public.

The intentions of Modi government are also conspicuous when the central government  opposed a plea seeking an independent Special Investigation team ( SIT )probe and deportation of billionaire diamond merchant Nirav Modi in the Supreme Court,citing an FIR has already been filed and that a probe was on.

The Supreme Court has already admitted the PIL, filed by lawyer Vineet Dhanda in the Rs 11,400 crore PNB fraud and has now been listed for further hearing on March 16.The PIL has made Punjab National Bank, Reserve Bank of India and the ministries of finance and law and justice as parties.

Modi has been touring the world citing that his government is enhancing the status of India as an investor friendly country and where there is an ease of doing business. On the contrary, his reforms of demonetisation and GST has benefitted selected Business people having links with the ruling party and crony capitalists and general public has been made to bear the burnt. The economic frauds have dented the image of India globally and these types of  incidents would amplify questions about distress in the country’s financial sector reeling under bad loans.

What type of image is being projected when the  picture in which billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi is seen with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Davos where the 48th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum took place  from 23 to 26 January 2018. The summit was attended by world’s leading figures .

On January 31, PNB filed a case of “criminal conspiracy and cheating” against the gem trader, members of his family and others two weeks ago alleging a 2.8 billion indian rupee ($44m) fraud.

The Modi government is busy creating eyewash by deploying agencies to probe the scandal  and the Central Bureau of Investigation  on Tuesday arrested five senior executives in connection with the multi-crore PNB fraud including Vipul Ambani (President, Finance, Firestar International/Diamonds group), Kavita Mankikar (executive assistant and authorised signatory of 3 accused firms), Arjun Patil (senior executive, Firestar group), Kapil Khandelwal (CFO, Nakshatra and Gitanjali group) and Niten Shahi (Manager, Gitanjali).

Modi asked people of India in 2014 to vote out corrupt UPA regime then how he and his government is defending the scandals that have occurred under his tenure of just four years . Modi is even trying to bring back the culprits to India .

The question should be asked to the ministers of Modi government what type of nationalism they carry with them when they do not value the life of Indian citizens ,when Dalits are being thrashed ,security personnel get killed on the border when our ruling political class provokes the enemy country just to showoff the Indian voter (woo voters) that they are superior than other political parties. Modi should have strengthened  the country militarily, economically and cohesively as an answer to the huge mandate given by the voters on trust.

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By: Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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