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Rahul Gandhi challenges PM for debate on Rafale deal

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Rafale deal scam

Hyderabad, Aug 13 (IANS) Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a debate on the Rafale jet deal with France, reiterating his graft charge against the government.

He said that he was ready for a debate with Modi at any place and time to prove that the government will get each Rafael jet for Rs 1,600 crore against the Rs 540 crore when the contract was signed during the earlier UPA rule.

Addressing a meeting of party workers, he said that Modi could not look him in the eye when he spoke in Parliament on the aircraft deal.

“I spoke before the ‘chowkidar’ with a 56-inch chest. He was looking everywhere but towards me. A corrupt person when told about his theft can’t see you in the eye,” Rahul Gandhi said.

The Congress President said that during his 1.5-hour reply to the debate, Modi did not speak a single word about the Rafale deal.

He reiterated his charge that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had lied to the nation that the aircraft price can’t be revealed as per a pact between India and France.

The Congress leader had claimed that the French President had told him that there is no such pact and that the Indian government can reveal the price to anyone it wants.

Rahul Gandhi recalled that the UPA government led by his party had given the contract for 126 aircraft to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited because it had been making aircraft for 70 years. He said that when Modi visited France, the contract was snatched from HAL and given to “his (Modi) friend”.

“Modi’s friend did not make aircraft in his life. That businessman is in Rs 45,000-crore debt,” Rahul Gandhi alleged.

He said that the contract was given to a company formed only 10 days before the contract.

Rahul Gandhi accused the Modi government of snatching jobs from the Indian youth as manufacture of the aircraft by HAL would have provided employment to lakhs of Indians.

The Congress leader said that the Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) of banks shot up to Rs 12 lakh crore during NDA rule from Rs 2.5 lakh crore under the UPA rule. He claimed that the entire Indian banking system has jammed.

The Congress President targeted Modi for failing to fulfil the commitments made to both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh at the time of the bifurcation of undivided Andhra Pradesh.

He said that if voted to power, the Congress would fulfil all commitments, including special category status for Andhra Pradesh.

Aiming at Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, Rahul wanted to know why he supported Modi on demonetisation, the Goods and Services Tax and other issues when the Prime Minister failed to fulfil commitments given to Telangana.

Rahul Gandhi said that Telangana has become the “capital of corruption” as only one family is reaping all the benefits.

He said that the Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief was no less than Modi in making false promises.

He said that if Modi promised Rs 15 lakh in every bank account and two crore jobs every year, Rao promised a job for every family and double bedroom houses to all the poor in the state.

Gandhi said that during the last four years, the TRS government had filled only 10,000 of the one lakh vacancies in government departments and built only 5,000 of the promised 22 lakh houses.

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Kirti Jha Azad joins Congress

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New Delhi, Feb 18: Ending months of speculation, Darbhanga MP and former cricketer Kirti Jha Azad on Monday joined the Congress.

Azad was inducted into the Congress by party president Rahul Gandhi.

The cricketer turned politician is a three term Member of Parliament from Darbhanga Bihar.

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BJP leader arrested in Bengal for ‘involvement’ in daughter’s abduction

Suprabhat Batabyal, who had crossed over to the BJP from the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress about five months back, was taken into custody following prima facie evidence of his link-up with the abduction which had triggered violence in the area, Additional Superintendent of Police, Bolpur, Tanmoy Sarkar said.

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Kolkata, Feb 17 (IANS) A BJP leader in West Bengal’s Birbhum district was arrested, along with two others, on Sunday for allegedly being involved in the abduction of his daughter, police said.

Suprabhat Batabyal, who had crossed over to the BJP from the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress about five months back, was taken into custody following prima facie evidence of his link-up with the abduction which had triggered violence in the area, Additional Superintendent of Police, Bolpur, Tanmoy Sarkar said.

The 22-year-old woman, allegedly kidnapped by the two armed youths on Thursday, was rescued from the railway station in North Dinajpur district on Sunday.

“We got a tip off, following which a joint team of Birbhum and north Dinajpur district police traced her at the railway station,” Sarkar told media persons.

He said the woman, who is a school teacher, was fine and the police were talking to her to find out the exact course of events.

“Apart from the two youths involved in the abduction, we have arrested the girl’s father as there were prima facie evidence of her link with the happenings. The motive could be both related to family happenings and political expediency.

“A particular political party (Trinamool) was maligned after the incident. Thee was also much violence including an attack on the local legislator,” said a police officer.

Following the alleged abduction, the BJP had blamed the Trinamool, saying it was trying to put pressure on Batabyal to return to its fold.

The BJP activists had blockaded the vital Suri-Katwa road since Thursday night. Tyres were burnt on the roads and on Saturday, a group of people damaged Labhpur legislator Monirul Islam’s vehicle and chased him, forcing him to take shelter in the Labhpur police station.

The mob, wielding rods and sticks, pelted stones at the police station, following which police carried out a baton charge to control the situation.

A total of 12 people were arrested and cases have been slapped against 151 people.

The BJP, however, described Batabyal’s arrest as a “political conspiracy”.

“Instead of arresting the real culprits, the police were enacting a drama to frame Batabyal,” Birbhum district BJP president Ramkrishna Roy said.

The BJP took out processions at Labhpur to protest Batabyal’s arrest.

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Audio tape puts Karnataka BJP, Yeddyurappa in the dock

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Bengaluru, Feb 17 (IANS) A purported audio tape in Kannada has put the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader B.S. Yeddyurappa in Karnataka in the dock. Its contents expose their desperation to topple the JD-S-Congress coalition government in the state ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, due in April-May.

Defying the adage “once bitten, twice shy” Yeddyurappa not only got too ambitious only to get caught on the wrong foot but has also pushed the party into trouble by trying to lure a senior JD-S legislator to join the BJP.

Trying to fish in the troubled waters of the Congress, which is witnessing power struggle between state leadership and a dozen of legislators, including four rebels, the BJP made a desperate bid to dislodge the government to grab power or ensure a spell of President’s Rule during the general elections.

According to a police complaint and a counter-complaint by the JD-S and the BJP, Yeddyurappa tried to “bribe” JD-S member Naganagouda Kandakur of Gurmitkal through the latter’s son Sharanagouda at Devadurga on February 7.

Voices of BJP’s two other legislators, Shivanagouda Naik from Devadurga and Preetham Gowda from Hassan, are also apparent in the tape offering “crores” to Sharanagouda to get his father Kandakur resign and contest from the same seat (Gurmitkal) on a BJP ticket in a by-election.

With Sharanagouda recording the conversation between him and the BJP trio and playing it to the media the next day (February 8) here in the presence of Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, the BJP and Yeddyurappa tried to wriggle out of the situation by first boycotting the 2019-20 budget presentation on February 8 and disrupting the 10-day session.

Going on offence to defend itself, the BJP protested against the state government’s decision to inquire into the audio tape through a special investigation team (SIT) and sought a judicial or a House committee probe.

The state government rejected the BJP demand for a judicial probe into the veracity of the 80-minute audio tape and got the budget for fiscal 2019-20 passed in the Assembly by voice vote on Thursday amid the din caused by the opposition.

Though Yeddyurappa initially denied that the voice in the tape was his and accused the JD-S of producing a fabricated and distorted version, a damaging reference to Assembly speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar by Naik that he could be bribed Rs 50 crore for not disqualifying Kandakur in the event of defection to the BJP embarrassed him (the Speaker).

An attack on Preetham Gowda’s house at Hassan, about 180 km from Bengaluru, on Wednesday, allegedly by JD-S workers in retaliation to the former’s remarks against JD-S supremo H.D. Deve Gowda, as recorded in the audio tape, also led to the 104-member BJP group to disrupt the Assembly proceedings, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the House ahead of the last day of the budget session on Friday.

However, the BJP continues to make a brave face. “The audio tape will have no bearing on our prospects in the Lok Sabha elections as the probe into it is by the police and not judiciary. Depending on outcome, we will challenge it in a court,” BJP’s state unit spokesman Vamanacharya told IANS here.

Even as the Congress heaved a sigh of relief with dissident and rebel legislators attending the Assembly on Wednesday and voting on the budget, the JD-S has been mocking the BJP for failing to topple the eight-month-old coalition government.

“The state government will not succeed in its bid to embarrass our party as courts will need presentable evidence, appearance of witnesses, which will only drag the case on. The audio tape will die its own death,” said Vamanacharya.

Reiterating the demand for a judicial probe into the audio tape, the BJP leader said it was only the judiciary that has the right to give out the report on the issue as the police will be under pressure from the state government in the inquiry.

It’s not the end of the story. Be ready to expect more such revelations and political cacophony as the Lok Sabha elections near.

(Bhavana Akella can be reached at [email protected] and Fakir Balaji at [email protected])

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