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PM Modi should apologise to farmers, says Opposition

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, meanwhile, met Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and D Raja in New Delhi to discuss the Supreme Court observations.

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The Congress on Monday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should apologise to protesting farmers and repeal the three new agricultural laws, noting that the Supreme Court too had expressed its anguish and disappointment over the repeated failure of conciliatory talks and the government’s inability to find a solution.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, meanwhile, met Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and D Raja in New Delhi to discuss the Supreme Court observations.

“We did discuss the Supreme Court order, informally. But the decision on what has to be done has to be taken by the farmers. They have to react to it. We stand by their demand for the repeal of the laws,” Communist Party of India general secretary Raja said.

The meeting at Pawar’s residence came on a day the Supreme Court criticised the central government over its handling of the agitation.

“We know that they have issued a statement. We will wait for their comprehensive reaction before making a comment,” Raja said.

But the Congress upped the ante against the PM and the government after the top court’s observations. The party chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala also urged the the Supreme Court to register cases against Modi, home minister Amit Shah, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and his Uttar Pradesh counterpart Yogi Adityanath after taking note of their actions that, he said, had caused damage to public property.

He said the central government and state governments have dug up roads and caused blockades on the national highways to stop the farmers from entering Delhi.

“The Prime Minister should apologise not only to the families of 65 farmers who have sacrificed their lives but also to the 62 crore farmers of the country. He should talk to the agitating farmers and nothing short of it is acceptable to the annadatas (food givers),” Surjewala told reporters.

The Congress spokesperson held the PM, the home minister and chief ministers of Haryana and UP directly responsible for the current agitation, saying they stopped farmers from coming to Delhi and expressing their opposition to the farm laws in a Gandhian manner.

Nationalist Congress Party leader Jayant Patil said, This is a victory for farmers. It is now clear that the Centre has not handled the farmers’ agitation properly.”

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Dates for Gujarat local body polls declared

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The Gujarat State Election Commission (SEC) on Saturday announced the local body elections in the state, involving six municipal corporations, 81 municipalities, 31 district panchayats and 231 taluka panchayats. The terms of these seats had ended last year, but the elections were postponed due to Coronavirus pandemic. With Saturday’s announcement, the model code of conduct (MCC) becomes effective in these constituencies.

The State Election Commission (SEC) has declared the dates for the polling for the local bodies like Municipal Corporations, municipalities, the district and Tehsil Panchayats in Gujarat.

The notification for the Municipal Corporation elections will be February 1, the last date of filing nominations will be February 6, scrutiny of nomination forms will be February 8, the last date of withdrawal of nominations will be February 9 and polling on the February 21. If repolling is required, then it will be carried out on February 22. The counting and the results are scheduled for February 23.

The notification for the Municipality, District Panchayat, Tehsil Panchayat elections will be February 8, the last date of filing nominations will be February 13, scrutiny of nomination forms will be February 15, the last date of withdrawal of nominations will be February 16 and polling on February 28. If repolling is required, then it will be carried out on March 1. The counting and the results will be on March 2.

“After the latest electoral roll, we have 4.09 crore voters in the state. There will be 47,695 polling stations, out of which over 11 thousand are sensitive and over 6 thousand extremely sensitive, but these are not final figures and they are dynamic. The total areas for which the elections will be held will be 6,577 and total elected seats will be 9,049,” said Sanjay Prasad, the State Election Commissioner.

“For these elections, more than 91,700 Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) will be utilised. The Voter Verification Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) won’t be used in these elections, as the standing Committee constituted technical Committee had recommended that as the EVM are tamper-proof, the VVPAT are not required. So none of the state election Commissions are using them,” added Prasad.

According to the programme, polling for Municipal Corporations will take place on Sunday, February 21 from 7 am to 6 pm while that for municipalities and panchayats, polling will take place on February 28th from 7 am to 6 pm. Counting for the Municipal Corporation polls will take place on February 23 while that for municipalities and panchayats will take place on March 2.

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‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan angers Mamata during Netaji’s birth anniversary

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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
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West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Centre are engaged in a tussle over the celebration of Netajis 125th birth anniversary that is taking place in Kolkata on Saturday.

But at Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee came together along with Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar to attend the programme. Everything was going fine till Mamata was requested to deliver her speech on the podium and a section of people from the audience shouted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans which clearly made the West Bengal CM angry.

“This is not a political programme. I think there should be some dignity in a government programme,” the CM said, adding that as a protest she will not speak on the occasion.

Banerjee said that It doesn’t suit to invite someone and then insult her at the event. She also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Culture Ministry for inviting her to the government event.

Protesting the incident, Trinamool Congress’ Lok Sabha MP from Basirhat Nusrat Jahan strongly condemned shouting of political and religious slogans at government functions.

“I strongly condemn the shouting of political and religious slogans at government functions to celebrate the legacy of freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on his 125th birth anniversary celebrations,” Jahan Tweeted.

The optics of Saturday’s events in Kolkata over Netaji’s birth anniversary celebration were significant in the context of the upcoming state Assembly elections that are just a few months away.

Earlier in the day, Banerjee paid a surprise visit to Netaji’s ancestral residence on Elgin Road where she criticised the Centre’s decision to announce January 23 as ‘Parakram Diwas’.

“I don’t understand the meaning of Parakram Diwas. We celebrate the day as Deshnayak Diwas,” Banerjee said. She further said that Netaji doesn’t require anyone’s mercy at all.

On the occasion of commemorating 125th birth anniversary of Netaji, the Centre had already declared January 23 as ‘Parakram Diwas’ to honour the boundless courage and valour of Netaji.

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Somnath Bharti gets 2 years imprisonment for assaulting AIIMS staff

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A special MP/MLA court in Delhi on Saturday sentenced Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Somnath Bharti to two years imprisonment for assaulting AIIMS security staff in a 2016 case.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey also imposed a fine of Rs 1 Lakh on the AAP leader. In the conviction judgement, the court said the prosecution has proved the case beyond all reasonable doubt against Bharti regarding charges of offence punishable U/s 323/353 read with Section 149 IPC and charge of offence punishable U/s 3 of The Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984 and charge of offence punishable U/s 147 IPC read with Section 149 IPC.

“He is held guilty and convicted for the same”, said the magistrate. The offences carry a maximum punishment of five years in jail.

However, Bharti was granted bail to file an appeal before the High Court to challenge his conviction in the case and jail term. The magistrate noted that key witnesses specifically stated that accused Bharti was leading the mob, which broke the fence at the boundary wall of the AIIMS with the JCB machine as well as manually.

The prosecution had said that on September 9, 2016, Bharti, along with nearly 300 others, demolished the fence of a boundary wall at AIIMS in Delhi with a JCB operator.

The magistrate observed that Bharti’s defence did not hold any merit in view of the other corroborating evidence regarding the presence of JCB machine, instruction given by him to the driver for the JCB machine and manual action of the mob demolishing the fence.

The court noted that the injuries suffered by witnesses during the incident while protecting the demolition of fence and boundary wall of the AIIMS and due to stone pelting by the mob is also duly proved by prosecution.

However, the court acquitted Bharti’s associates and co-accused – Jagat Saini, Dileep Jha, Sandeep Sonu and Rakesh Pandey – due to lack of evidence. The case was registered following a complaint from RS Rawat, Chief Security Officer, AIIMS.

Bharti had submitted before the court that he was falsely implicated in the case by police officials and other witnesses, who deposed against him.

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