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Modi cannot overcome huge resentment against Vasundhara government: Sachin Pilot

On BJP fielding the lone Muslim minister Yunus Khan against him in Tonk, Pilot said he was glad that the ruling party’s plan of replicating the Uttar Pradesh template has not been successful.

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Sachin Pilot

Jaipur, Nov 25 : Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot, one of the chief ministerial aspirants in the state, maintains there is no confusion between him and former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot over the December 7 assembly elections and the decision on who will be the chief minister will be taken by the party and the elected MLAs.

He feels “agrarian distress” and unemployment are key issues his party is taking up against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the assembly polls and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not be able to overcome the “huge resentment” against the Vasundhra Raje government by his electioneering in the state.

“We have never done that. In 70 years of Rajasthan’s history, the Congress party has never selected an individual. I had the great honour of working as state party president. What the elected MLAs and Congress party decides will be acceptable to all of us,” Pilot told IANS in an interview.

He said the leadership issue was not creating confusion and the first first priority is to win the state and win it comprehensively.

Asked if he would like to be chief minister given a chance, Pilot, 41, said he has always followed the party’s decisions.

He alleged that law and order has collapsed in the state, there was social disharmony, cases of mob lynching, cow vigilantism and social unrest were on rise and the BJP was seeking to use “caste, community and religion” to boost its prospects.

The former Union minister said Chief Minister Vasundhra Raje “is very disliked”.

“When Modi comes here, he cannot dissociate himself from Vasundaraji. The five-year track record of Vasundhara government — he has to be answerable for that also. You go to Karnataka and you start blaming the Congress government there, but here Vasundhara government is very disliked and people have a huge resentment against her. I don’t think his campaign will be able to overcome that,” Pilot said.

He was asked about the perception that Modi is able to boost the BJP’s prospects in assembly polls by his aggressive campaigning in the last few days. Modi is slated to address 10 rallies in Rajasthan beginning Sunday.

Pilot, who was appointed Rajasthan Congress chief in 2014 after the Congress debacle in the 2013 Assembly polls, said Modi’s campaign will have little impact and referred to his campaigns in Bihar and Delhi assembly elections which the BJP had lost. “We know what results were there,” he said.

Asked if Vasundhara Raje was a liability for BJP, he said: “I don’t know what it is, but they have chosen to project her knowing fully well the resentment people have against her government. So they will have to pay a price.”

Pilot said anti-incumbency was a factor as BJP had won 163 of 200 seats in the 2013 assembly polls but had “betrayed the trust of people”.

“More than anti-incumbency, it is hope that people have from the Congress now,” he said.

Asked about the number of seats Congress will win given that surveys have predicted a clear majority for the party, Pilot said he cannot predict the future, but “with five years of my work and the party being strong on the ground, I am very confident that we will get a thumping majority”.

Asked about the main issues of the party, Pilot said the “agrarian crisis faced by the farmers was number one issue” in the state.

“The crisis has led to farmer suicides, crippling of agriculture sector. Young people being unemployed and underemployed is so rampant that the future seems bleak. Unemployment and farmers’ distress are the two biggest issues that Rajasthan is facing.”

Pilot said Rajasthan had a high average of rape cases despite having a woman chief minister.

“Law and order has collapsed. There is social disharmony with cases of mob lynching, cow vigilantism and social unrest on the rise. The kind of negativity that is being spread in society. On the top of it (there is) corruption and privatisation of schools and hospitals.”

On the perception about BJP having better booth-level management, Pilot said it was propaganda and added that in the byelection for Ajmer parliamentary seat earlier this year there were many booths where the BJP did not get any vote.

“It is a record of sorts. When people are with you, all the poll management, all money, all resources fall by the wayside. Their will prevails.”

On BJP fielding the lone Muslim minister Yunus Khan against him in Tonk, Pilot said he was glad that the ruling party’s plan of replicating the Uttar Pradesh template has not been successful.

He said Yunus Khan “was denied a ticket because of religion he belongs to, and, ironically, he had been given a ticket from Tonk only because of the religion he belongs to” and not because party workers from the area were demanding his candidature.

“It is sad that BJP is looking at castes, communities and religion. They are clutching at straws. They are insecure. They have no answers to give for lack of development in Tonk. So they are trying to use communal politics to their advantage.”

On the Congress facing the problem of rebels, Pilot said a lot of them have withdrawn from fray and others will also come around.

About Vasundhara government making changes in text books, he said it is myopic thinking. “They are trying to put religion into politics, they are trying to polarise our society; people are going to remember all that. Any wrong they have done will be reviewed and we will take action as appropriate.”

He said Congress had a very forward-looking roadmap which will revive industry, agriculture, create jobs and provide a safe environment to all residents of the state.

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at [email protected])

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India at Afghan crossroads as Taliban cocks its guns

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India Army on Desert

New Delhi, July 3 : With Chinese bellicosity reverberating across the world, South Asia is bracing for another jolt — the epicentre of which is neighbouring Afghanistan. The tremors from Kabul will pass through Islamabad and hit Delhi, yet their intensity is not known. To what extent is India prepared is a question mark.

It all began on February 29, when the US signed a deal with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, to withdraw its forces from the war-torn country after almost 19 long years. Strangely it chose to leave out the elected Afghan government from a deal that impacts the future of Afghans.

The peace deal between the US and Taliban, remains a misnomer. Contrary to the spirit of the deal, the Taliban has increased attacks and the violence has engulfed the landlocked country – right from the maternity ward of a hospital in Kabul, to a gurdwara in prayers; from a funeral site in Nangarhar to a court in Paktia. And, not to mention dozens of Afghan security check-points where many hundreds of security personnel have died.

On its part, the Afghan government is implementing various provisions of the deal, like the release of Taliban prisoners, and President Ashraf Ghani has committed to join the intra-Afghan talks in Doha.

Doha is where the Taliban maintains its political office, and where the US-Taliban deal had been negotiated this February. The US Special Representative for Peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad has been chasing diverse parties including Pakistan for the intra-Afghan talks, reducing violence and release of prisoners. In his recent talks with Afghan leaders, Khalilzad reinforced that peace in Afghanistan is equivalent to peace in the region and the US is ready to invest in this sphere.

However, going by the high levels of violence inflicted by the Taliban the future looks bleak for the nation. It is not difficult to understand why the Taliban has stepped up its deadly attacks across the country – it is looking forward to an American withdrawal to enable a complete takeover of the country. The World Human Rights Watch Report has said that the Taliban”s widespread human rights abuses in areas under its control raise concerns about its willingness to adhere to future agreements.

Besides the two key nations — the US and Afghanistan, there always has been a high-stakes player — Pakistan, with its behind-the-scenes shelter and support to terror groups. In its efforts to control a resource-rich but unstable neighbour, it has played a pivotal role in keeping Afghanistan on the tenterhooks and vulnerable to attacks through battle-hardened terror groups. It has also put in considerable efforts to keep India at bay.

Indian intervention in Afghanistan has been diametrically opposite Pakistan”s — it has pumped in $2 billion aid and assistance for the Afghan people to rebuild the war-ravaged country and promote democracy. India has built dams, power stations, roads, hospitals and trained Afghan people in various aspects of administration and security.

With unprecedented developments happening in Afghanistan, many including Khalilzad are urging India to talk to Taliban. This is a view which even Zamir Kabulov, Russia”s special presidential envoy for Afghanistan, holds. The million dollar question is — how does India view the Taliban, which India has kept at an arm”s length for close to two decades now.

India still looks at Afghanistan as a democratic country that elects a people”s government, while the Taliban is still viewed as a terror group, power hungry and a Pakistani stooge. Indian thinking is still governed by the good old-fashioned theory of an ideal Afghanistan where all tribes come together to hold elections, where terror groups drop their arms and the Afghans climb up the development charts with roads, dams, schools and hospitals with Indian support.

With unbelievable violence engulfing Afghanistan, this looks like an impossible reality. An Indian pipe dream. But what is still possible amidst these impossibilities is that India opens up a window to talk with the Taliban.

The Taliban has made reconciliatory gestures towards India which have been surprising. It has already said that the revocation of Article 370 in Kashmir was an internal matter of India. And, it has said a couple of times that it is open to talks with India. In fact, even the Afghan government has indicated that India should join the intra-Afghan talks as the country has always been supportive of peace in Afghanistan. It wants India to drop its opposition to the Taliban and lend strength to the peace process.

While calls for India”s role in the peace process echo from all sides, the only opposition has come from arch enemy Pakistan, which is still busy playing its ”running with the hare and hunting with the hounds” game. Even as it poses with the US as an ally in the Afghan peace process, it has been sheltering and training various terror groups in attacking both Afghan and Indian interests.

However, the good news for India is that the terror groups are mutating in the Afghan battlefield. While the Taliban is warming up to India, the formidable terror group, Haqqani Network, shares Pakistan”s line of thinking.

The fast-paced developments in Afghanistan have left the field wide open for India to drop its nonchalance and join the talks, paving the way for a bigger Indian role once the US completely withdraws from the region. As the various players in the Afghanistan theatre know, India”s stand at the talks will only be from a point of peace and from a perspective of the Afghan people.

We know that there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies in international relations. People evolve, entities change but peace still remains a goal worth pursuing. India has pursued that goal for millions of Afghan people for long. It should not give up now.

By : Rahul Kumar

(This content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

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Saroj Khan will live in history of choreography for Indian cinema: Subhash Ghai

She was an integral part of our Mukta Arts family-She was my strong partner in grooming stars like Madhuri Meenakshi, Manisha and Aishwarya. Master of masters.

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Saroj Khan Death

Mumbai, July 3 : Filmmaker Subhash Ghai has described prolific choreographer Saroj Khans death as a “personal loss”, and said that she will forever live in the history of choreography in Indian cinema.

Almost all the biggest films in Ghai”s career had Saroj Khan calling the shots for some of the biggest dance hits in his films. These include “Hero” (1983), “Karma” (1986), “Ram Lakhan” (1989), “Khalnayak” (1993), “Pardes” (1997), “Taal” (1999), “Yaadein” (2001) and “Kisna” (2005).

On Friday, Ghai shared an emotional video talking about Saroj Khan, who passed away after a cardiac arrest in the early hours at the age of 71.

“Saroj Khan. My biggest personal loss. An integral part of my journey in cinema — Sarojji. Keeping alive classical dance in Hindi cinema was Saroj Khan. Change has come and change will come, but Saroj Khan will not. We all have become masters by becoming her students. Cinema will always remember her. What do I say, I have no words. I am saddened,” he said in the video.

Alongside the video he also shared a message, where he said that she was a strong partner in grooming stars like Meenakshi Sheshadri, Madhuri Dixit, Manisha Koirala and Aishwarya Rai.

Meenakshi Sheshadri became an overnight star after “Hero”, Ghai”s musical blockbuster of 1983. Madhuri worked in the Ghai hits “Ram Lakhan” and “Khalnayak”, both of which had superhit dances choreographed by Saroj Khan. Manisha Koirala made her debut in Ghai’s 1991 hit “Saudagar”, which had several hit song-and-dance sequences, while Aishwarya Rai’s dances in “Taal” continue to be a rage to this day.

“An era has gone. Absolutely my personal loss. She was an integral part of our Mukta Arts family-She was my strong partner in grooming stars like Madhuri Meenakshi, Manisha and Aishwarya. Master of masters. Saroj Khan will live in the history of choreography for Indian cinema indeed. Bye Jaan. RIP,” said Ghai.

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No Chinese goods in food ministry now: Ram Vilas Paswan

After the incident, there is a wave of anger all over the country against China and people are boycotting Chinese goods.

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Ram Vilas Paswan

New Delhi, July 1 : Union Minister for Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan has said that his ministry has closed the door for Chinese products. Paswan said that no Chinese goods will come to his department anymore and a circular to this effect has already been issued.

In an exclusive interview with IANS, Paswan said that from now on foreign products will also be tested as per the standard set by the Bureau of Indian Standards.

After this decision, the purchase of goods directly by his Ministry and the departments and organizations under his Ministry will not include products from China.

The Food Corporation of India and the Central Warehousing Corporation also come under the Union Food and Public Distribution Ministry.

The circular issued by the ministry on June 23 stated that no goods manufactured in China would be purchased from the Government e Marketplace (GeM) portal or any other source.

This decision comes after the incident in Galwan Valley in Ladakh in which 20 Indian soldiers, including an officer, were killed in a clash with Chinese troops last month.

After the incident, there is a wave of anger all over the country against China and people are boycotting Chinese goods.

Paswan said “Rules are being framed to check foreign goods standards. These rules will apply not only to Chinese products but also to products coming from other countries.”

He said the way Indian goods are tested on foreign standards in the same way, foreign goods will be tested in India. “We will stop foreign goods if our standards are not met,” Paswan said.

Paswan has been active in delivering foodgrains to every nook and corner of the country by implementing the free grain distribution scheme – Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) during the corona crisis. So far, 1,03,53,715 tonnes of foodgrains have been distributed, which is 87 per cent of the total quota for three months.

The scheme has been extended till November. Expressing happiness, Paswan said this will provide great relief to more than 80 crore poor people of the country in this hour of crisis.

Paswan said there is enough stock of foodgrains in the country. He urged the states to lift the grains for the months ahead to ensure smooth distribution under PMGKAY.

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