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Nitish meets Sonia, calls for opposition unity to take on BJP




New Delhi, Apr 20 : Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar today met Congress President Sonia Gandhi here and is learnt to have advocated unity among opposition parties to take on the BJP-led NDA.

JD(U) also used the meeting to call for a joint opposition candidate for the election to the President’s post and urged Gandhi to take the lead in the matter.

Its spokesperson K C Tyagi, however, insisted that the issue of presidential election was not discussed in the meeting and added it was his party’s view that a strong joint opposition candidate will be in national interest.

“There should a joint opposition candidate for the top Constitutional post and Sonia Gandhi being the leader of the largest opposition party should take the lead,” he said.

Kumar has already taken up the matter with leaders of the Left parties and received a good response, he said.

Another senior JD(U) leader said Kumar’s visit to Gandhi’s residence was a courtesy call as the Congress is the party’s ally in Bihar and also because Gandhi had been ill for some time.

“He did speak about the need for unity among opposition parties,” he added.

Kumar has been calling for forging an alliance of secular parties at the national level on the lines of the 2015 electoral grand alliance or ‘Mahagathbandhan’ in Bihar to take on the BJP-led NDA under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Congress is a partner in the Bihar government with Kumar’s JD-U and Lalu Prasad’s RJD, after the three parties contested and won the assembly elections as part of the grand alliance.


Alpesh Thakore says he is not joining BJP



Alpesh Thakore

Ahmedabad, Sep 24 (IANS) Firebrand young OBC leader Alpesh Thakore, the Congress legislator from Radhanpur in north Gujarat, on Monday denied rumours that he was preparing to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“I don’t know who is spreading these canards at regular intervals but I want to state clearly that I am in the Congress and shall remain in the Congress,” Thakore told reporters, flanked by state Congress president Amit Chavda and Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani.

He asserted: “I had joined the Congress after seeking the opinion of over 20,000 followers and today I am entrusted with national responsibility in the party, including in Bihar.”

There had been rumours of Thakore negotiating with the ruling BJP and that he might be accommodated as a Minister in the Vijay Rupani government. Political circles have also been speculating that he may vacate his constituency for former Minister Shankar Chaudhary.

“I never do politics of leaving my constituency for anyone. The question does not arise. And why should I leave my constituency for Chaudhary?”

Thakore was also in the news recently for raising his voice against the Congress supporting the BJP govermnent’s move to raise salaries for legislators in the state from Rs 70,000-plus to over Rs 1.16 lakh per month.

He had said that it was improper for the Congress not to have resisted this, especially when the citizens were suffering the burden of high prices.

“At times I may speak in heat of the moment which may look as though I am going against my party but that is never my intent,” he said.

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Padma Shukla resigns from BJP, joins Congress



Bhopal, Sep 24: A cabinet minister of Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led Madhya Pradesh government, Padma Shukla on Monday joined the Congress ahead of assembly elections. 

“I tried to work with Madhya Pradesh Minister Sanjay Pathak for two years, but that seemed impossible. He used to humiliate BJP workers. It was hurting me and damaging self-respect of my workers”,  Shukla told media.

Earlier in a day, she resigned from the primary membership of Bharatiya Janata Party. ahead of assembly elections.

Shukla also held a post of Madhya Pradesh public welfare board Chief.

She joined the rival party in the presence of Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath and other senior leader.


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Congress-BJP dogfight over Rafale intensifies



Rafale Deal Facts

New Delhi, Sep 23 : The political dogfight over the Rafale deal peaked on Sunday with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley seeking to discredit former France President Francois Hollande’s revelation about choice of the offset partner and even found a link to his claim to Congress President Rahul Gandhi.

Hitting back, the Congress accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of violating the oath of secrecy by revealing details of the pact to his industrialist crony and reiterated its demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the intergovernmental deal with France to purchase 36 Rafale jets.

A day after Gandhi and the Congress came out all guns blazing against Modi, Jaitley cited conflicting media reports on Hollande’s claims and questioned the veracity of the former French President’s remarks that the Modi government had asked them to chose a private firm as the offset partner in the Rafale deal.

“Truth cannot have two versions,” wrote Jaitley in his blogpost citing Hollande’s initial claim to a French website that “Reliance Defence partnership with Dassault Aviation was entered at the suggestion of the Indian Government” and his subsequent statement to news agency AFP that “he is not aware if government ever lobbied for Reliance Defence”.

“The accuracy of the statements made by the individuals may be questioned but circumstances never lie,” said Jaitley, adding that “there is no ‘partnership’, as suggested by the former President.

“His (Hollande) second statement in Montreal, Canada, to AFP makes the veracity of his first statement even more questionable,” said Jaitley maintaining that it was “erroneous for anybody to suggest that there is a partnership in the supply of the 36 Rafale aircraft”.

Jaitley also pointed to a link between Hollande’s claim and a tweet by Gandhi on April 30 saying “It’s (Rafale) also going to drop some big bunker buster bombs in the next couple of weeks.”

“The former French President’s first statement rhymes with Rahul Gandhi’s prediction,” wrote Jaitley asserting Gandhi’s tweet was “no coincidence”.

The Congress which has been gunning for the Modi regime, lost no time in dismissing Jaitley’s assertions as “lies” and demanded the Prime Minister to answer its questions rather than hiding behind his ministers’ defences.

Gandhi in his reply said Jaitley’s specialty was to “spin lies” and “defend the indefensible”.

“It’s high time he, the RM (Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman) and our Prime Minister stop lying and call a JPC to establish the full, uncorrupted truth about the Rafale scam,” he said.

Intensifying the attack senior Congress leader Anand Sharma charged Modi with revealing the details of the intergovernmental deal to industrialist who subsequently became an offset partner instead of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

“The question to the Prime Minister is: how did this information come out that he would go go to France and reverse the deal?” said Sharma referring to Modi’s April 2015 announcement of the deal to purchase 36 jets instead of 126 being negotiated during the erstwhile UPA regime.

“Then Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar had said that the Rafale deal was not on the agenda during Modi’s visit to France. Even the Cabinet Committee on Security, the Indian Air Force, the Cabinet or the Foreign Secretary were not aware.

“Modi violated his oath of secrecy. Only he and none else could have revealed to the private company that he would reverse the deal,” said Sharma while pointing to the incorporation of Reliance Defence Limited just days before Modi visited France in April 2015.

“It’s a conspiracy, only one (Modi) person with knowledge about the new deal — without telling anyone in the Cabinet, or the Ambassador etc — revealed the details to the industrialist and asked him to form a company,” added Sharma.


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