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Sonia forms panels to resolve differences in state units

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Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi, Jan 20 : In order to sort out the differences in the state units and bring amity among the warring factions, Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi has constituted Coordination Committees in the Congress ruled states and Union Territories.

Internal differences have surfaced within the party in some of the Congress ruled states, the most recent being between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his Deputy Sachin Pilot.

The coordination committee in Rajasthan will have General Secretary and party in-charge in the state Avinash Pandey, CM Ashok Gehlot, Deputy CM Sachin Pilit and five other leaders.

In Madhya Pradesh party in-charge of the state Deepak Babaria will head the seven member committee including CM Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijaya Singh.

P.L. Punia will head the nine-member committee in Chhattigarh with CM Bhupesh Baghel, PCC president Mohan Mariam, TS Singh Deo and Tamradhwaj Sahu as the members.

Mukul Wasnik has been made the Chairman of the coordination committee in Puducherry which will have CM V Narayan Sami and PCC president Namassivayam as the members.

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Politics

Centre trying to destroy social fabric: Punjab CM Amarinder

the BJP-led central government had failed to factor in the possible reaction of the people in its plans to impose the CAA, as well as the NRC and NPR, on the nation.

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Amarinder Singh

Chandigarh, Feb 25 : Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday said the public reaction to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) was “expected” since the BJP government at the Centre was trying to destroy India’s cherished constitutional and social fabric through this draconian legislation.

Responding to a question from the media informally outside the Vidhan Sabha, the Chief Minister said the BJP-led central government had failed to factor in the possible reaction of the people in its plans to impose the CAA, as well as the NRC and NPR, on the nation.

“Naturally, there had to be a reaction to the Centre’s attempt to trample over the country’s democratic ideals of socialism and secularism,” he said, adding that the people’s angst would not end but would only grow bigger till the central government realised its mistake and withdrew the legislation.

Asked about the Centre’s decision not to invite Congress President Sonia Gandhi to the banquet hosted for the visiting US President Donald Trump, Amarinder Singh described it as unfortunate and said such a thing had never happened under Congress governments.

Replying to another question, he said the Delhi Chief Minister should have been invited for the A US First Lady’s visit to Delhi schools.

Though he was not a supporter of AAP policies, it was customary for the Chief Minister to be invited when a VIP, such as US President Donald Trump, was on a visit and his wife was going to a school of that state, he said.

Asked about the probe into the drugs charges against former SSB member and Akali leader Anwar Masih, Amarinder Singh said the investigations were in progress.

On the demand of cancellation of power purchase agreements (PPAs) with private power companies, the Chief Minister said that closing down the plants might not be a feasible alternative but his government would renegotiate the agreements.

Though he had announced his government’s decision to bring out a White Paper on the PPAs signed by the previous SAD-BJP government in the monsoon session of the Assembly, his government was working on trying to present it before the House in the current budget session itself, he added.

“Wait for my speech tomorrow in Vidhan Sabha,” the Chief Minister quipped, on being asked about the smart schools in the state.

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India

Manmohan Singh to also skip President’s Banquet for Trump

Earlier in the day, Azad, the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, declined the invitation to attend the President’s dinner for Trump.

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Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, Feb 24 : After the Congress’ leaders in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday decided that he will also skip President Ram Nath Kovind’s Banquet on Tuesday in honour of visiting US President Donald Trump.

Sources close to the former Prime Minister said that he will not attend the banquet as the party is upset that its chief Sonia Gandhi has not been invited to the function and there has been no engagement with the opposition by the visiting US President.

Earlier in the day, Azad, the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, declined the invitation to attend the President’s dinner for Trump.

Sources close to the Congress leader said that “since no invitation has been extended to Chairman of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) Sonia Gandhi, so it would not be appropriate for him to attend the function”.

Earlier, Chowdhury had declined the invitation to attend the Presidential banquet on the same grounds.

The Congress said on Friday that it had not received any invitation for its leaders to meet Trump on his two-day visit to India.

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Election

VVPAT data destroyed before stipulated period, NGOs tell SC

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGOs, submitted before the court that “shocking fact” had emerged in an RTI response, and the parties will file application on this matter.

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EVM VVPAT

New Delhi, Feb 24 : Two NGOs — the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Common Cause – Monday alleged in the Supreme Court that the Election Commission has violated election rules by destroying data pertaining to VVPAT of the last general election, while the statutory one-year period for this process to conclude is yet to get over.

Citing the poll panel’s response received through an RTI application, the NGOs contended before a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant that it is mandatory to retain the VVPAT data for a period of one year — under the Election Rules.

The court replied that at this moment it is not willing to examine the matter.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGOs, submitted before the court that “shocking fact” had emerged in an RTI response, and the parties will file application on this matter.

The top court had earlier issued notice to the poll body on the plea seeking a probe to examine the alleged discrepancies between the voter turnout figure and the number of votes counted in 347 constituencies. The poll body is yet to file response on this matter. The court has scheduled this matter for further hearing after four weeks.

The ADR, backing its claim on the research conducted by experts, said serious discrepancies apparently appear between the number of voters in different constituencies, which involves voter turnout data collated and provided by the poll body and the number of votes counted.

The NGOs, in the plea, seek direction to the poll body to develop a robust procedure to probe these discrepancies in future elections. “The Master summary of 542 constituencies shows discrepancies in 347 seats. 195 seats are without discrepancies whatsoever. The discrepancies range from 1 vote (lowest) to 101,323 votes @ 10.49 per cent of the total votes (highest),” said the NGO in the plea.

The plea also claims there were six seats where the discrepancy in the number of votes was higher than the winning margin. The petition has sought accurate reconciliation of data before poll results are declared and seek direction to the EC to bring in public domain the information in the statutory forms — 17C, 20, 21C, 21D and 21E — for general election held last year and all future elections.

“That in order to uphold and preserve the sanctity of elections, it is undeniably imperative that election results are accurate. It is not only sufficient that election results are accurate; the public must also know that the results are accurate. The entire electoral process is damaged if elections are not credible even in the absence of a demonstrable scam,” said the plea.

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