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Karnataka Congress MLAs meet to be show of strength

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Rahul Gandhi

Bengaluru, Jan 17 Buoyed by the return of its “prodigal” MLAs and failure of “Operation Lotus” against the JD(S)-Congress coalition, Karnataka’s ruling Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting here on Friday is expected to be a show of strength, capping the political drama of the last few days.

The meeting of Congress MLAs takes place after some half-a-dozen party MLAs, sulking over not being inducted into the government, returned expressing allegiance to the Congress even as nearly 100 BJP MLAs sequestered in a Gurugram hotel, near Delhi, are set to leave their camp on Friday.

“The legislators who will not attend the CLP meeting on Friday may be disqualified by the party. The meet will be a show of strength,” Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) Vice President B.K. Chandrashekar told IANS here.

The meeting has been onvened by CLP leader Siddaramaiah at the Vidhana Soudha at 3.30 p.m. “The meeting will take stock of all the political happenings over the last week. Legislators might also be asked to refrain from speaking against each other in the public,” Chandrashekar said.

The budget that will be presented by the coalition government in February will also be part of the discussions at the CLP meet.

Earlier this week, Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar’s remarks that the opposition BJP was indulging in horse trading by offering money to about four Congress legislators in Mumbai, set off high-octane political activity in the southern state.

While the BJP denied the poaching allegations, it lodged its legislators, who were in Delhi over the past week for a party meet with national leadership, at a private resort in Gurugram, Haryana. The party in turn claimed that the JD-S and Congress coalition was attempting to poach its legislators.

Amid the exchange of horse trading charges by the three major parties in the state, two legislators withdrew their support to the coalition government on Tuesday. They were R. Shankar of Karnataka Pragnavantha Janata Party from Ranebennur Assembly segment in Haveri district and H.Nagesh, an Independent from Mulbagal constituency in Kolar district.

The coalition partners, however, continued to maintain that the government was stable and that they had the support of all their legislators.

“No attempt to destabilise the coalition government will be effective as we have the support of all our legislators,” Congress leader and Deputy Chief Minister G. Parameshwara said.

In the 225-member Legislative Assembly, including one nominated member, the Congress has 80 legislators, JD-S 37, and the BJP 104, while one Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA continues to support the coalition after one Independent Nagesh and the KPJP legislator Shankar withdrew their support.

The coalition government thereby has 118 legislators on its side, while BJP has 104.

The BJP was “taking advantage” of the legislators who were not offered a place in the ministry, Parameshwara said.

“Whenever there is a cabinet reshuffle, there will naturally be disappointment among those legislators who were not offered a ministry. BJP was trying to take advantage of that but failed,” he asserted.

Among the two legislators who withdrew their support to the government, Shankar, who was a former Forests Minister in Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy’s cabinet, was dropped from the ministry during a reshuffle and expansion on December 22 last year.A

“There is a possibility that the legislators who were not given cabinet posts, be offered ministries, with 4-5 current Ministers ready to give up their positions,” Chandrashekar told IANS.

Through the CLP meet, the party aims to renew confidence among its legislators to keep the coalition intact, he said.A

“The party might also shift the focus to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections (in April-May) by entrusting the leaders with campaigning responsibilities,” the state unit Congress vice president added.

Meanwhile, Karnataka Congress Working President Dinesh Gundu Rao said many Congress MLAs out of Bengaluru on holiday or for Sankaranti and they were threatened by the BJP with the use of agencies and blackmailing tactics but it did not succeed.

BJP leader and former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa countered the Congress allegations and his suggestion to the Congress would be that it was their responsibility to keep the flock to gether.

“Keeping your MLAs together is not my responsibility. If they were not happy and were in Bengaluru or Mumbai or any other place, we are not responsible for that,” he said.

He said his party of 104 MLAs is in tact and charged the Congress with trying to poach BJP MLAs.

India

North Eeast Border Row: Protesters block highway to Mizoram for 2nd day

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Assam Mizoram Border Row

Silchar/Aizawl: The Assam-Mizoram border trouble continued for the second day on Thursday as the agitators in southern Assam refused to withdraw their blockade of National Highway 306, the lifeline of Mizoram, demanding the withdrawal of its security personnel from Assam’s territory.

Assam’s Additional Director General of Police, Law and Order, Gyanendra Pratap Singh, who is camping in southern Assam since Wednesday, held a series of meetings to normalise the situation but despite his appeal, over a hundred people refused to withdraw their blockade at Lailapur, leaving more than 250 goods-laden vehicles stranded on the either side of the border.

Singh, after visiting the agitation site, told the media that the Assam government would approach the Centre to probe the October 22 bomb blasts in a school located at Khulicherra area near the Assam-Mizoram border.

“The blast at the school was possibly triggered by the miscreants to frighten the border residents. Senior police officials are closely watching the situation and the security along the inter-state borders was further tightened,” he said.

“The demarcated inter-state boundary should be respected by everyone. Necessary statutory provisions are being exploited and interactions with the Central government are being done on a regular basis,” he added.

The picketers were demanding withdrawal of Mizoram’s forces from Assam’s territory in Cachar and Karimganj districts.

“In the series of high-level meetings during the last two weeks, Mizoram officials had agreed to gradually withdraw their forces from the areas inside Assam territory. But, they are yet to withdraw,” a senior Cachar district police official said.

Mizoram ferries all its essentials, food grains, transport fuel and various other goods and machines through NH 306 which connects Vairengte in its Kolasib district to southern Assam.

Festering since October 9, the situation along the 164.6-km Assam-Mizoram border took an ugly turn with around 20 shops and houses being burnt and over 50 people injured in the attacks and counter-attacks by people on either side on October 17.

Union Home Ministry’s Joint Secretary (North East), Satyendra Kumar Garg had held a meeting with the Home Secretaries of Assam and Mizoram last week where it was agreed that both sides will maintain the status quo and hold regular talks to prevent any untoward incident.

After these meetings, over 300 stranded Mizoram-bound essential goods laden vehicles went to the neighbouring state.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah also spoke to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Mizoram CM Zoramthanga several times last week to defuse the crisis. Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla held a meeting, through video conference, with the Chief Secretaries of Assam and Mizoram.

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Rs 1,752 cr disbursed to 3 MCDs till Oct 26: Sisodia

Sisodia said the Delhi government paid MCDs their due share of taxes, but it has also paid a large sum over and above as loan.

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Manish Sisodia

New Delhi: Amid war of words over unpaid dues of healthcare workers in the hospitals run by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Thursday wrote a scathing letter to three Mayors of MCDs alleging petty politics by them over the issue of delayed salaries to healthcare workers.

Sisodia claimed that it’s the MCD which owes money to the Delhi government.

The three Mayors had earlier protested in front of the CM’s residence claiming a large amount of balance payment from Delhi government to the MCDs.

Countering the claims made by the Mayors, Sisodia presented facts showing that not only had Delhi government paid all the funds due to the MCDs as per the Fifth Delhi Finance Commission, it has paid over and above the required amount resulting in a huge outstanding loans.

“As for the amount owed by the government of Delhi to the MCDs for the current financial (2020-21), as per the Fifth Delhi Finance Commission calculations, a total of Rs 1965.91 crore was due until October 26, 2020, of which Rs 1752.61 crore has already been paid,” Sisodia wrote in the letter.

“MCDs have outstanding loans from Delhi government to the tune of Rs 6008 crore, they also have arrears of Rs 2596 crore to the Delhi Jal Board. Hence, in all, they owe over Rs 8600 crore to the Delhi government,” said the letter.

Sisodia urged the three Mayors to rise above petty politics and focus on the real issue of corruption and financial mismanagement in each of the three MCDs. He urged the Mayors to demand the unpaid amount of Rs 12,000 crore from the Central government.

“I am writing this letter with much anguish and disappointment over your actions as the three Mayors of Delhi (NDMC, EDMC, SDMC) with regard to the unpaid salaries of doctors and healthcare workers in MCD hospitals.

“From your actions, it is clear that rather than finding a viable solution to the matter using all administrative options available to the MCDs, you are only interested in peddling lies and indulging in shameful politics over this issue.

“In the process, you have caused unprecedented pain to the families of thousands of healthcare workers and lowered the prestige of the national capital at a time when the entire country has united in the fight against Corona,” the letter said.

Sisodia said the Delhi government paid MCDs their due share of taxes, but it has also paid a large sum over and above as loan.

As on April 1, 2020, a total of Rs 6,008 crore loan is outstanding from the three MCDs, as per the records of the Urban Development Department. This includes Rs 1,977 crore outstanding loan from EDMC, Rs 3,243 crore from NDMC and Rs 788 crore from SDMC.

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India

PDP’s Srinagar Office Sealed After Protests Against Land Laws

Under the new land law, no domicile or permanent resident certificate is required to purchase non-agricultural land in Jammu and Kashmir.

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Mehbooba Mufti

Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir Thursday foiled a protest march by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the new land law and detained several leaders from the party.

The party had organized a protest rally from the party headquarters in Srinagar to the Press Enclave. However, soon after the leaders reached the party headquarters, they were detained by the police force that was already deployed there. The police detained party members including Khurshid Aalam, Waheed Parra, Suhail Bukhari, Mohit Bhan.

The party had lodged a similar protest in Jammu on Wednesday.

The PDP president and former chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti in a tweet stated that the party office in Srinagar has been sealed by the administration and workers have been arrested for organizing a peaceful protest.

“PDP office in Srinagar sealed by J&K admin & workers arrested for organising a peaceful protest. A similar protest was allowed in Jammu so why was it thwarted here? Is this your definition of ‘normalcy’ that’s being showcased in the world?” Mehbooba tweeted.

“PDP’s @parawahid, Khurshid Alam, Rouf Bhat, @MohsinQayoom_& @buttkout were arrested by J&K police for protesting against the settler colonial land laws thrusted upon people of J&K. We will continue to raise our voice collectively & wont tolerate attempts to change demographics,” she tweeted.

Under the new land law, notified on October 27 by the Union Government, no domicile or permanent resident certificate is required to purchase non-agricultural land in the UT. Earlier, Article 35-A of J&K Constitution which was revoked on August 5, placed prohibitions on the sale of land to those who were not state subjects.

The central government has even empowered an Army Commander to declare any area in J&K as strategic for operational and training requirement of the armed forces.

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