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NCP to vote for BJP, Patel’s RS fate hangs in balance

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Ahmedabad/New Delhi, Aug 7 : In a blow to the Congress in Gujarat and a further setback for Ahmed Patel’s attempt to enter the Rajya Sabha for the fifth term, an NCP MLA said he and his party colleague have been asked to vote for the BJP.

Nationalist Congress Party MLA Kandhal Jadeja told local TV that they had been asked by senior party leaders to vote for BJP’s Balvantsinh Rajput in Tuesday’s Rajya Sabha election.

The latest development muddies the situation for Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, with the BJP all out to stymie his efforts in the biennial elections.

Earlier, the 44 Congress MLAs, who were flown to Bengaluru to prevent “poaching” by the BJP, returned to the state on Monday.

They were moved to the Nijanand Resort near Anand. Their family members visited the resort for the Raksha Bandhan festival.

Of the 57 party legislators in the 182-member Gujarat Assembly, six quit the party on July 26 and three of them joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on July 28. Of the remaining 51 MLAs, seven, including Shankersinh Vaghela, did not join those who were flown to Bengaluru.

Patel, who needs 45 first preference votes in a House with an effective strength of 176 MLAs, expressed confidence that he will win the election with the support of 44 party MLAs, and the backing of two NCP and a lone JD-U member.

“I have spoken to (NCP chief) Sharad Pawarji and he has promised all help to the Congress. They have even issued a whip. As for Vaghela, he has himself promised that he will vote for me and I believe he will keep his word,” he said.

Asked about allegations of surveillance on him and Congress MLAs by the ruling BJP, he said: “I don’t know why I am targeted like this. This is an example of a banana republic.

“I have full confidence in my victory tomorrow despite the BJP’s attempts and the numbers will surprise everyone,” Patel said at the private resort near Anand where the 44 MLAs are lodged.

On Tuesday, the legislators will directly go to state capital Gandhinagar to vote for Ahmed Patel.

BJP chief Amit Shah and Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani are contesting the other two seats, which the BJP is sure to win. The party fielded Congress defector Balwantsinh Rajput as the third candidate in its bid to defeat Patel.

“As all of us are united. The BJP cannot threaten any of our MLAs. Horse trading is not possible with those who are with us,” party’s lawmaker Shaktisinh Gohil told reporters earlier.

In New Delhi, the Congress expressed confidence of Ahmed Patel’s win, despite the BJP’s attempts to lure MLAs through money, power and threats.

“BJP, by adopting cheap methods, is conspiring to turn minority votes into majority in Gujarat,” the Congress said.

“They can make all attempts to insult the people’s mandate… But we are confident that Ahmed Patel is going to be victorious…,” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala while briefing reporters.

“People have rejected them. It will be proven in the assembly elections. BJP is worried about the loss in Gujarat, therefore they are trying their best to further lower the level of politics.

“However much they (BJP) try to conspire, Congress will walk the path of truth and will win,” he added.

Gujarat has seldom experienced political suspense since 1995 when the first BJP government came to power, and after Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has fortified the state like a fiefdom. All the 26 Lok Sabha candidates in the state are from Modi’s party.

Problems started when Congress veteran, the maverick 77-year-old Vaghela, called it quits at a public show of strength on his July 21 birthday over not being made the chief ministerial candidate for the 2017 assembly elections and not being handed over the complete reins of the campaign.

On Monday, Vaghela said he was not in touch with Congress MLAs.

He also said his relations with Congress leader Ahmed Patel were “very cordial”.

Vaghela, who resigned from the Congress in July, told NDTV in an interview that there was no question of getting any offer from the BJP.

Asked about his vote, Vaghela said voting was the “property of a MLA”. I don’t want to expose it.”

Asked about speculation that he had been offered the post of Governor by the BJP, Vaghela said there were no talks between him and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

“There is no question of any offer,” he said and added that BJP leaders were not in touch with him.

Earlier, the NCP had extended its support to Patel.

Lone JD-U MLA Chhotubhai Vasava has also extended his support to Patel’s candidature.

Cities

Civilian injured in accidental firing at J&K militant’s funeral

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Mudasir Ahmad Bhat
Thousands attend the funeral procession of slain Lashkar militant Mudasir Ahmad Bhat of Parigam Yaripora, pic: Shah Hilal (Kashmir Life)

Srinagar, July 22 (IANS) A civilian was injured on Sunday in an accidental firing during the funeral of a slain militant in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara district, informed sources said.

Eyewitnesses said civilian Fayaz Ahmad was injured in the foot in Katrasoo village when the rifle of a militant went off accidentally during the funeral of Mudaser Bhat, who along with two others were killed in Khudwani area of the district in a gunfight with security forces earlier.

The injured was shifted to a Srinagar hospital.

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Sports

Ozil quits international football amid furore over photo with Erdogan

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Mesut Ozil with Tayyip Erdogan

Berlin, July 23 (IANS) Germany’s attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil announced his retirement from international football on Sunday, a month-and-a-half after his photo with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sparked a controversy.

The 29-year-old Ozil, a cornerstone of Germany under coach Joachim Low, announced his decision on Twitter, after defending the photo taken with Erdogan and Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan in May, reports Efe.

“It is with a heavy heart and after much consideration that because of recent events, I will no longer be playing for Germany at international level whilst I have this feeling of racism and disrespect. I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement but now I don’t,” the Arsenal star said.

“This decision has been extremely difficult to make because I have always given everything for my teammates, the coaching staff and the good people of Germany. But when high-ranking officials of the DFB (the German football federation) treat me as they did, disrespect my Turkish roots and selfishly turn me into a political propaganda, then enough is enough,a he added.

The photograph was interpreted by some critics as Ozil’s explicit support for Erdogan’s re-election campaign amid ongoing tense relations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“Having a picture with president Erdogan wasn’t about politics or elections. It was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country,” Ozil said in a lengthy statement on his official Twitter account earlier in the day.

Ozil is considered a symbol of integration in Germany, where people of Turkish descent make up the biggest immigrant community, numbering 3.5 million, half of whom retain their right to vote in Turkey.

Ozil slammed DFB president Reinhard Grindel, who he accused of trying to benefit his own political views. He also accused the DFB president of racism.

“I know that Grindel wanted me out the team after the picture, and publicised his view on Twitter without any thinking or consultation, but Low and (director) Oliver Bierhoff stood up for me and backed me,” he revealed.

“In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose.”

Low decided to keep both players on his 2018 FIFA World Cup squad even though fans raised doubts about Ozil’s loyalty to the German national team.

The controversy haunted both players during the World Cup and Germany’s early exit from the tournament added fuel to the fire.

“Are there criteria for being fully German that I do not fit?” Ozil asked. “My friend Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose are never referred to as German-Polish, so why am I German-Turkish? Is it because it is Turkey? Is it because I’m a Muslim?”

Since his debut in 2009, Ozil has appeared in 92 matches for Germany’s national team, scoring 23 goals. He was part of Germany’s World Cup-winning squad in 2014.A

Ozil was also part of the German squads which reached the semi-finals of 2014 World Cup and two European Championships in 2012 and 2016.

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US, Russia diplomats discuss Helsinki meeting, ties

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trump putin

Washington, July 23 (IANS) The US Department of State has said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to discuss Helsinki meeting fruits and issues over bilateral and regional concerns.

According to a statement issued by State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert on Sunday, the phone conversation took place on Saturday when the two foreign ministers discussed a broad range of issues, “some of which were following up from the meeting between President Trump and President Putin” in Finland on July 16, Xinhua reported.

Among the topics discussed was the situation in Syria.

The two also discussed how to implement ideas on counterterrorism process coordination and the mutual goal of establishing business-to-business dialogue between private, non-governmentally controlled entities in the two countries, another deliverable of the Trump-Putin meeting.

Pompeo and Lavrov also discussed “the need for Russia to provide equal diplomatic access to the US, at a level that is fair and reciprocal”.

US White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said Thursday that Putin will be invited to Washington in the autumn, and “those discussions are already underway”.

Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said on Friday in response that that his country is open to a new meeting between the two presidents.

Trump has been widely attacked after his meeting with Putin on July 16, due to his reconciliatory remarks that many saw as a sign to side with Moscow against US intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 US elections.

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