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‘Congress could have scored hat-trick in 2014 if Pranab had become PM in 2004’

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khurshid

Manmohan Singh’s selection over Pranab Mukherjee in 2004 to head the UPA government came as a surprise not only to the Congress, but also to outsiders, says former Union Minister, Salman Khurshid.He said that many argue that Congress might have averted the 2014 Lok Sabha drubbing if the choice had been otherwise.

“It’s always easy to be wise after the worst has happened.

We must not forget the whole nation had applauded Dr Manmohan Singh as the game-changer finance minister during the Narasimha Rao regime (June 1991 to May 1996).

But when Dr Singh contested the 1999 Lok Sabha polls from what was thought to be the safest seat in the country for him, South Delhi, he was defeated by a candidate whose name many would scarce recall (It was Professor Vijay Kumar Malhotra of the BJP).

“But when Dr Singh contested the 1999 Lok Sabha polls from what was thought to be the safest seat in the country for him, South Delhi, he was defeated by a candidate whose name many would scarce recall (It was Professor Vijay Kumar Malhotra of the BJP),” writes Khurshid in his new book “The Other Side of the Mountain” and describes it as a concise biography not of one person but of the many who were part of the UPA.

However, the former External Affairs Minister says that after some initial reluctance, not only was Sonia Gandhi s decision to choose him to lead the UPA-I widely welcomed but was “also proved correct by the electoral verdict five years later, when we were returned to power with a greater majority”.

Khurshid, who had served as external affairs minister in UPA-II, says he was lucky to have the confidence of the incumbent prime minister though Singh once “gently chastised” him for a comment made before the media indicating India could not provide lethal weapons to Afghanistan.

“As external affairs minister, I had a pretty free run on most matters, with the prime minister taking special interest in the neighbourhood, our rediscovery of America, the millennium conversation with China and the excitement of keeping pace with Japan.

“I recall just once when Dr Singh gently chastised me for a press comment indicating we could not provide lethal weapons to Afghanistan. It came in the wake of repeated prodding by (Afghan) President Hamid Karzai, although he never did make an issue of it,” Khurshid says.

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Cover atheist Muslims from neighbouring countries under CAA: Taslima Nasrin

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Writer Taslima Nasrin

New Delhi : “If the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is about giving citizenship to the persecuted in the neighbouring countries, I appeal to the Government of India to extend it to atheists and persecuted Muslims too. Just like Hindus, Christians and Buddhists are discriminated against in Bangladesh and Pakistan, atheists and activists who criticise Islam are hacked to death in Muslim nations, be it Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Afghanistan. In most cases, the well-off manage to get political asylum and settle in Europe or America, but what about the others? India must come forward,” says writer Taslima Nasrin, best-known for ‘Lajja’, who has been in exile for more than 25 years after a fatwa was issued against her for ‘criticising Islam’ by a fundamentalist Islamic organisation in 1993.

Stressing that she is still a staunch believer in the Uniform Civil Code, the writer, whose works have been translated into more than 30 languages adds, “Let’s be clear — all religions are anti-woman and need critical scrutiny. The basis of marriage has to be equality. In these times, how can you have archaic laws that favour men when it comes to inheritance, divorce, etc?”

Nasrin, a physician by profession, who fled Bangladesh in 1994 and spent the next ten years of her exile in Sweden, Germany, France and the US to come to Kolkata in 2004, was even forced out of West Bengal in 2007. “Isn’t it so absurd — a Bengali writer is neither accepted in East nor West Bengal? I moved from Europe to Kolkata for the love of the Bengali language, to be close to my roots. How do I feel now? Abandoned is the word,” she laments.

Talking about her recently released book in India, ‘My Girlhood’ (Penguin Hamish Hamilton), which has been banned in Bangladesh, Nasrin says, “It starts with the time when I was not even born and traces my life till the age of fifteen. I witnessed the mass movement against Pakistan in 1969, the 1971 war, how for nine months, our family had to move from village to village to save ourselves from Pakistanis who were leaving a trail of devastation wherever they went. It was banned by Bangladesh on charges of ‘obscenity’, just because it also talked about the sexual harassment of a 15-year-old by a family member,” says the author about the book that was written while she in Sweden. ‘My Girlhood’ was adjudged as the Best Non-Fiction work by Los Angeles Times.

A quarter of century of exile has surely changed the meaning of home for Nasrin. For the first five-six years, it was more on a physical level. Slowly, home has become a place that lives inside. “Now, it is where I feel safe, secure and loved. Where there is solidarity, respect and support. Physically, that can be anywhere in the world. After such a long time, different connections start collapsing from your own land….parents die, you lose touch with your friends…”

But writing for Nasrin is not visiting wounds from the past, (‘My Girlhood’ is a memoir). She insists that even if there are autobiographical elements in her body of work, she talks about the society, politics, women and patriarchy.”I tell stories so we can fight against sufferings. My intention has always been to keep talking about a society that is kind, liberal and most importantly, more human.”

As ‘Shameless’ (HarperCollins India), the sequel to her book ‘Lajja’ gets set to release in the near future, the author, who wrote it between 2004 and 2006, while living in Kolkata says that it revolves around the Bangladeshi Hindu family that escapes from Bangladesh to Kolkata in ‘Lajja’. “While living in Kolkata, I got a first-hand experience of the condition of refugees in the city. I finished it in 2007, but had to leave the country after that. The draft, which required polishing was in India, that’s why the delay in publishing.”

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India

Passengers can make bookings from April 15 onwards: AirAsia

According to the senior official, the current lockdown period is till the midnight of April 14 and if this is not extended then these bookings will be honoured.

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Air Asia

New Delhi, April 5 : Budget passenger carrier AirAsia India on Saturday said that passengers can continue to make their bookings for flights that wil be operated from April 15 onwards.

“If at all there is any change based on the direction provided by the regulator, we will abide to the policies and notify guests accordingly,” a spokesperson of the airline said.

At present, no foreign or domestic passenger flight operations are allowed till April 14.

On Thursday, Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola said that domestic airlines are free to accept ticket bookings for flights that will be operated post the current lockdown deadline.

According to the senior official, the current lockdown period is till the midnight of April 14 and if this is not extended then these bookings will be honoured.

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Coronavirus: CRPF DG AP Maheshwari goes on self-quarantine

The infected CRPF officer has been admitted to AIIMS, Jhajjar.

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A P Maheshwari

New Delhi, April 4 : CRPF DG A.P. Maheshwari has gone on self-quarantine after indirect contact with a doctor who tested positive for Covid-19.

Officials said that a CRPF officer had tested positive for COVID-19 on March 31. All personnel in contact with the officer have been quarantined.

Maheshwari had an indirect contact with the officer. As per protocol, the DG is observing self-quarantine. He kept himself quarantined from Saturday but is working from home, according to officials.

The infected CRPF officer has been admitted to AIIMS, Jhajjar.

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