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Bring oil back to 2014 prices, Congress dares Modi

This price reduction is a panic reaction. If the government is serious, it should have withdrawn the excise hike of 211 per cent on petrol and 443 per cent on diesel levied since May 2014.

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narendra modi

New Delhi, Oct 4 : As the Centre on Thursday announced a Rs 2.50 per litre cut in petrol and diesel prices, the Congress dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bring the fuel prices back to the 2014 level, instead of throwing a “pittance of one or two rupees” at the public.

The Congress also claimed that the Modi government was selling petrol and diesel to many foreign countries at less than half the prices at which these were sold in India.

Addressing the media here, Congress Spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala called the cut, as a result of reduction in excise duty, “a panic reaction in the face of public anger” ahead of Assembly polls in four states.

“Petrol and diesel in India is sold in the range of Rs 84 to Rs 90 and Rs 75 to Rs 80 respectively (Delhi and Mumbai) but an RTI reply has revealed that the Modi government is selling petrol to 15 countries at just Rs 34 per litre and selling diesel to 29 nations at a mere Rs 37,” Surjewala said.

He said that the countries to which the fuel were being sold cheaper include the UK, Australia, Malaysia and Israel.

Pointing to the fact that the Modi government, ever since coming to power in May 2014, has increased central excise duty 12 times — 211 per cent for petrol and 443 per cent for diesel — the Congress leader accused the NDA regime of effecting a “fuel loot” totalling Rs 13 lakh crore.

“This price reduction is a panic reaction. If the government is serious, it should have withdrawn the excise hike of 211 per cent on petrol and 443 per cent on diesel levied since May 2014,” he said.

He also claimed that Value Added Tax on fuel — which contributed to high prices — was the highest in BJP-ruled states like Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Assam, and Haryana, and questioned why the BJP was not getting VAT reduced in these states to give relief to the masses.

The opposition party also demanded to know why the government was not trying to control the skyrocketing prices of cooking gas.

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Rahul takes up police ‘mitras’ issue with NHRC

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Rahul Gandhi Savarkar

New Delhi, Jan 27 : Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday led a party delegation to the NHRC and took up the issue of “police mitras”, who were allegedly involved in violence on those protesting against the CAA in Uttar Pradesh.

Heading a party delegation that met the human rights body to submit “proof” on the violence in Uttar Pradesh over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, he told the NHRC members that a systematic process is being put in place across the country to induct “police mitras”, or friends of police, to brutalise people.

“What is taking place is against the very idea of India and the Constitution. We cannot become a country where the leadership brutalises its own people.”

The Congress leader said that the NHRC was the appropriate institution to ensure safeguarding of human rights in the country and that the NHRC has defended the idea of India and everything that was promised by our Constitution.

Rahul Gandhi told the NHRC officials that if the rights body was to go into the details of what had been submitted by the party as proof, it will be convinced that something terribly wrong had happened in Uttar Pradesh.

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Bolton’s claim on Ukraine aid overshadows Trump defence at trial

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John Bolton NSA

New York, Jan 28 : At least three Republican senators have said they were open to witnesses like former National Security Adviser John Bolton being called to testify at the Senate trial overshadowing the defence of President Donald Trump after his reported claims about Trump freezing military aid to Ukraine.

The Democrat’s demand for witnesses hung in the balance on Monday needing just one more Republican to defect and the influential Senator Mitt Romney said it was increasingly likely that others from his party would join him in asking for Bolton’s testimony.

The New York Times reported on Sunday evening that Bolton, who had been dismissed by Trump, had written in a draft of his memoir that the president had tied the unfreezing of the $341 million military aid to Ukraine to the country’s leadership ordering a probe of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

The aid issue is central to the Democrats’ claim that Trump abused his power and endangered national security by stopping the aid while US ally Ukraine was at war with Russia.

Bolton’s claim undercuts Trump’s lawyers’ assertions during the trial on Saturday that the freeze was not connected to the request for the probe but was to ensure that the new leadership in Ukraine was rooting out corruption.

Trump also denied it in tweet and added, “If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book.”

The aid was ultimately released without a probe and none of the witnesses produced by the Democrats during the House impeachment process only speculated or surmised that the probe and the aid were linked, they said.

But Bolton’s testimony would be from a party directly dealing with the president.

As the trial resumed on Monday, Kenneth Starr whose investigation of Bill Clinton was the basis for his impeachment in 1998, appeared this time as a defence lawyer.

He called the impeachment and the trial “a dagger” pointed at the “heart of the presidency” before turning to constitutional issues.

After the report by the Times, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer tweeted, “John Bolton has the evidence. It’s up to four Senate Republicans to ensure that John Bolton, (Trump’s acting Chief of Staff) Mick Mulvaney, and the others with direct knowledge of President Trump’s actions testify in the Senate trial.”

The Republicans, who hold the majority with 53 senators in the 100-member Senate, blocked several attempts by Democrats’ to provide for witnesses when the rules were voted on the first day of the trial standing firmly by the Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel.

When Trump’s lawyers finish their defence the Democrats will have another chance to ask for additional witnesses, including Trump’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

Trump issued a warning to would-be defector during an interview on Fox TV, “Some of them are running (for reelection, and I think it would be very bad for them” if they backed the Democrat’s demand.

The House impeached Trump last month on charges of abuse of power over his request in a July phone call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenstsky to probe the Bidens and obstruction of Congress for refusing to provide documents and witnesses requested by House investigators.

The Democrats’ say that asking for the probe amounted to soliciting foreign interference in US elections because Biden is the leading candidate for the party’s nomination to take on Trump in November.

Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow told the Senate on Monday it was not illegal for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate corruption.

The Democrats will not be able to get the two-thirds majority needed in the Senate to convict Trump and oust him from office and, therefore, the impeachment and the Senate trial is an outlet for their anger him and, more importantly, an extended election campaign against him.

Calling Bolton to testify is unlikely to get the Democrats enough Republican defectors to throw out Trump, but could add to their ammunition against Trump and lengthen the trial, which the Democrats want to end before the last State of the Union address of Trump’s current term scheduled for February 4.

But it could come at a cost as some Republicans have threatened to call the Bidens as witnesses to embarrass them and the party.

The crux of the case against is that he asked Ukrainian PresidentAVolodymyr Zelentsky during a July phone call to probe the Bidens as a favour.A

Democrats say that his amounted to inviting foreign involvement in US elections and delaying aid was an illegal attempt to use it pressure Ukraine.

Hunter Biden was made a director of a Ukrainian gas compnayAeven though he had no experience in the area and the former vice presidentAhad the prosecutorAlooking into the company fired.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

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People get the government they deserve: Sachin Pilot

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Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot.

Jaipur: The Deputy Chief Minister of Rajastahan, Sachin Pilot feels that the ongoing protests against CAA are a culmination of several developments which have not found favour with the people.

“Such a prolonged protest is not healthy. The government must talk to those who are agitating. But then, as they say, people get the government they deserve. After all, citizens voted them to power. Of course, they won’t win the state elections in Delhi this time.”

While claiming that there is a complete lack of engagement in the contemporary political and social scenario, he added, “Never before have we seen such a lack of dialogue. I don’t understand why the government is not prepared to address the concerns of its own citizens. They have been elected by the people and owe it to them,” he said.

Sharing the stage with journalist Rajdeep Sardesai at the Jaipur Literature Festival, Pilot stressed that the need of the hour was to groom young leaders across party lines as there was no dearth of bright youngsters in the country.

Refuting the claim that youngsters who come from a political background have it easy when it comes to entering politics, the Deputy Chief Minister said that someone like him has to prove himself at every step. “It’s all about performance. If you don’t deliver, you just can’t last.”

Sardasai said that the BJP was more 21st century ready than the Congress. “The young are more inclined towards Modi because he is ready to speak to them in their language. Across the world, there is a hunger for superheroes. Let’s admit it, he is a remarkable story and he managed to capture the template of the new India. In these times, you cannot be part of the privileged and talk down to people. Of course, now the BJP too is committing the same mistakes like Indira Gandhi. One can see the arrogance…”

Stating that Rahul Gandhi seldom misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity, the journalist said that under the present regime, political has become personal. “It has become us vs them everywhere. This is a vindictive government, look what they did with the writer Aatish Taseer for writing against Modi. Also, what we are seeing today in general are autocratic leaders. You say anything against them, and chances are you’ll land up in jail — Mamta Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik for example.”

Adding that it was time to “reclaim” the republic by reclaiming the values the county has already stood for, Sardesai said that decline of democratic institutions is worrisome. “Look at Farooq Abdullah. He is under detention for months now.”

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