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Give answers on Rafale instead of whataboutery, Congress tells BJP

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Rafale deal scam

New Delhi, Oct 12 : Dismissing the ruling BJPs latest bid to defend the Rafale deal, the Congress on Friday demanded that the Modi government give “factual answers about irregularities in the deal instead of indulging in whataboutery”.

Soon after Railways Minister Piyush Goyal accused Congress President Rahul Gandhi of “spreading falsehood and lies” over the deal with France to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets, the party questioned why the NDA government was shying away from a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe.

The Congress also sought answers over the issues of “corruption and irregularities” in the deal announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2015.

“One after the other, BJP ministers keep coming up with different justifications without answering any of the basic questions that the Congress has been raising since the deal was announced. Instead of giving factual answers to our questions they indulge in whataboutery,” Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera told the media here.

“The country doesn’t want adjectives for Rahul Gandhi or what his father did or his mother did. The country wants answers on the Rafale deal, which the BJP and the government has been unable to give,” said Khera.

Ridiculing Gandhi’s Thursday charges of corruption against Modi, Goyal called him a “serial liar”.

The Union Minister’s remarks came in the wake of Rafale-maker Dassault Aviation’s CEO Eric Trappier saying that the company’s joint venture with Reliance represents only about 10 per cent of the offset obligations in the jets deal and it was in negotiations with about a 100 Indian companies.

Khera said that the BJP was trying to “defend the indefensible” and reiterated its demand for a JPC probe.

“They keep coming with one or the other justification. Every time, their lies are exposed. They continue to hide behind the confidentiality clause when the fact is that both Dassault and Reliance, in their annual reports, have revealed the price of the jets.

“They denied any hand in the ouster of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) from the deal but were exposed again when Trappier said that their agreement with HAL was on track. Further, HAL ex-chief T.S. Raju too said that the Indian aircraft maker had entered into a work-share agreement with Dassault,” said Khera.

“Why does the government shiver over a JPC. Let them submit to it all the questions which we and the country have been raising. Their lies have been exposed every time but they continue to refuse to give factual answers to any of the questions raised,” added Khera.

The Congress has twice petitioned the Comptroller and Auditor General of India for a special and forensics audit and also moved the Central Vigilance Commission seeking a probe and seizure of deal documents.

Besides questioning the “inflated” price of the jets, the Congress has also been targeting the Centre over the propriety of a newly-founded private company getting the Rs 30,000-crore Rafale offset contract at the cost of the state-owned HAL.

Following fresh revelations in the French media over the choice of offset partner, Gandhi on Thursday called Modi “corrupt” and asked him to quit if he failed to respond to the charges.

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Sabarimala issue: ‘Will you take sanitary napkins to friend’s home,’ asks Smriti Irani

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Mumbai, Oct 23: Union Minister Smriti Irani on Tuesday waded into the Sabarimala issue by asking if it was proper for anybody to desecrate a place of worship to justify the right to pray.

“It is plain common sense… Will you take sanitary napkins soaked in menstrual blood to a friend’s home? You will not. Do you think it is respectful to do the same when you enter the house of God?” Irani asked, speaking at an event..

Seeking to point out the difference, Irani said: “Everyone has the right to pray, but not to desecrate,” referring to a statement she had made recently after some woman threatened to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala with blood-soaked sanitary napkins.

Irani’s remarks came at a Young Thinkers’ Conference organized by the British Deputy High Commission and think-tank, Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

She made it clear that these were her personal views and as a cabinet minister, she would not comment on the Supreme Court’s recent verdict opening the Sabarimala Temple precincts to women of all ages.

After the Supreme Court ruling, the temple opened its doors on October 17, but shut down on Monday (Oct 22) following widespread protests and not permitting a single woman to enter the premises in the “banned” age group.

Prior to the apex court verdict, women in the menstruating age were only permitted till the base camp near the Pamba river, while men were allowed to continue the five-km long trek to the temple.

Drawing parallels, the Hindu-born Irani referred to her own marriage with a Parsi community man, (Zubin).

“I am a Hindu married to a Parsi, but I have ensured both my children practise Zorastrianism. Both have performed their Navjot ceremony. When I took by infant son to a fire temple (Agiary) in Andheri, I had to hand him to my husband. I was asked to go away from there,” she recounted.

Since then, Irani said as she is not allowed to accompany her husband and kids to any fire temple, she waits for them outside or in the car.

On the prospects of the Bharatiya Janata Party pushing the religious agenda in the 2019 elections, the minister said she “does not support populist rhetoric”.

“However, if there are schemes by implementation of which a majority of the population can benefit, it should not be targeted or sidelined or even demonized in any manner because it helps those who cannot help themselves,” Irani said.

She also discussed the achievements of the BJP government on various issues like the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, implementing difficult measures including the GST and Insolvency Code.

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Women approach Kerala High Court seeking police protection to visit Sabarimala Temple

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Sabarimala, Oct 23: Four women including two lawyers on Tuesday approached the Kerala High Court seeking police protection to visit Sabarimala Temple.

They claimed that the Supreme Court had given women permission to enter the Lord Ayyappa temple.

The brief pilgrimage season in Sabarimala failed to make history as women aged between 10-50 age were kept away by protests against their entry despite the top court order of allowing women of all ages to pray at the Lord Ayyaappa temple.

The doors of the famous temple closed at 10 p.m. on Monday, a day that witnessed five women making an unsuccessful effort to pray at the hill temple.

Since the beginning, Kerala was on the edge, after the temple opened for its customary monthly pujas for the first time after the September 28 the Supreme Court verdict which overturned a centuries-old practice that prohibited women of menstrual age from entering the famous temple.

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SC wants response from Centre, Assam on Hajela not favouring allowing five left-out documents for inclusion in NRC

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New Delhi, Oct 23: The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought response from the Centre and Assam government on the report by the State NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela not favouring permitting 40 lakh-odd left out to rely on five documents including ration card to assert their claim for inclusion in National Register of Citizens.

Seeking response from Centre, Assam and other stakeholders, the bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman declined, for now, the Centre’s plea for extending time for filing claims for inclusion in NRC as since September 25 when the process started, only one lakh people filed the claims.

The top court on September 19 had ordered the commencement of submission of claims and objections on inclusion of names in Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft from September 25.

The court had ordered that the start of filing of claims and objections backed by 10 identity documents would last for 60 days from the date of commencement.

However, it kept out five identity documents that included extract of NRC of 1951; extract/certified copy of electoral rolls up to midnight of March 24, 1971; refugee registration certificate issued up to March 24, 1971; and ration cards issued by competent authority with official seal and signature up to March 24, 1971 (midnight).

The court had sought the views of Hajela on permitting their use as favoured by the Centre by in its September 17 affidavit and Assam.

Seeking response from the stakeholders on Hajela objecting to allowing the use of five identity documents for claiming inclusion in NRC, the court said, “He may be right or wrong.”

He has told the court that relying on five documents would create problems.

Hajela submitted two reports– one confidential in a sealed cover and the other in which he expressed his misgivings on permitting five identity document to rely upon for claiming inclusion in NRC.

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