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We have learnt lessons, time to put house in order: Ahmed Patel



Ahmedabad, Aug 14 : Congress veteran Ahmed Patel has admitted he learnt “bitter lessons” in his Rajya Sabha election when a battery of legislators openly tried to sabotage his winning prospects but asserted it ended up helping the party separate the wheat from the chaff.

In a candid interview to IANS where he spoke about issues afflicting the party, Patel, political secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, said: “We will need to be careful in future, keep a close watch and look into individual grievances of party leaders and MLAs.”

Asked if this meant rebel leader Shankersinh Vaghela was correct in his claims that the problems and aspirations of MLAs were ignored, he said: “Well, not exactly. But we will look into the details and the genuineness of the grievances for sure. But that is no justification for stabbing the party in the back like this.”

“It was the toughest electoral battle of my career. I have fought five Lok Sabha elections and four Rajya Sabha, but this was the toughest,” the 67-year-old Patel admitted.

“We learnt bitter lessons but we have emerged stronger. This entire episode (of sabotage) has automatically led to purging of people whom we could not trust. We know who is ours and who is not, and who was never,” said the Congress leader, who won his fifth term after two votes against him by rebel MLAs got invalidated.

Good riddance of bad rubbish? “No, no, no, don’t use such words; not bad rubbish, but those who were not the party’s well-wishers have left,” said Patel, who belongs to south Gujarat’s Bharuch district.

Six Congress MLAs resigned in the run-up to the Rajya Sabha election on August 8, and eight others, including rebel leader Vaghela, openly cross-voted against the party’s official nominee Patel in an election which turned into a battleground with four candidates in the fray for three seats.

Two of them, BJP President Amit Shah and Patel, were the most powerful leaders in their respective parties and the Bharatiya Janata Party was bent upon seeing Patel out — also to snub Sonia Gandhi.

Within 24 hours of Patel’s victory, reportedly with the support of the lone Janata Dal-United legislator Chhotubhai Vasava, the eight Congress rebels were sacked, and the party also issued sack letters to the six who had resigned because they had done so after a whip to vote for Patel.

Patel added: “The first and the most important outcome of this election is that there is new spirit and sense of determination, which had dissipated and given way to inertia.”

“The mood has changed now. Sometimes it is the will to win alone that overrides and takes care of several issues.”

What was in this victory that has sent a current of energy through the party, something that did not happen even after the Congress lost all 26 Lok Sabha seats in 2014?

“When you pull life out of the jaws of death, you don’t want it to happen again. All our people, the entire party was made to feel completely helpless by the enemies very much within us. This was not the case in 2014, though it was a humiliating defeat,” pointed out Patel, whom Vaghela had promised to vote for, only to take a U-turn at the eleventh hour.

Asked if he was now going to take active charge of the Gujarat Congress and lead from the front, given that he has set the party rank and file a target of 125 seats (in a House of 182), he said an emphatic “No.”

“I will be a facilitator, I will keep a much closer watch and do my best possible to meet this target. I am not for Chief Ministership, if you are suggesting even something remotely like that.”

So who is going to channelise this new energy in the party since every leader in the Congress seems to be a Chief Ministerial candidate, the key party strategist laughs, but admits: “This is a big challenge for us, the tendency to count the eggs even before they are hatched.”

So, what do you do with this? “We will sort it out. See, sometimes small distractions and minor tussles blur the big picture, the bottomline. This episode has come as a blessing in disguise. There is a realisation that a victory is now a necessity for survival.”

“Once the bottomline becomes your goal, other things start falling in place.”

Gujarat is expected to go to the polls in December this year.

With Vaghela gone, does the Congress have a Chief Ministerial candidate with state-level stature?

“I won’t like to go into Vaghela’s claims, but I would say your ability to fetch victory on a tough ground has to be demonstrated through adequate evidence,” Patel said, tacitly referring to Vaghela’s erstwhile Rashtriya Janata Party’s ability to win only four seats.

“We have not thought of a Chief Ministerial candidate, we will do so when the need arises. Right now, the immediate priority is put our house in order,” he said.

Startups News

Google ‘Launchpad Accelerator’ India chapter to nurture desi startups




New Delhi, July 10: In a bid to nurture Indian startups working in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), Google on Tuesday announced to open the India chapter of its global “Launchpad Accelerator” mentorship programme.

The three-month “Launchpad Accelerator” India programme has been designed to grow the AI/ML ecosystem by helping desi startups build scalable solutions for the country’s unique problems.

The programme, based out of Bengaluru, will provide a cohort of 8-10 Indian startups mentorship and support from the best of Google in AI/ML, Cloud, UX, Android, web, product strategy and marketing, along with up to $100K of Google Cloud credits, the company said in a statement.

“India has the appetite to build entrepreneurs of the future and we are proud to announce a focused programme for the next wave of Indian entrepreneurs, who are using new technologies to solve the country’s needs,” said Roy Glasberg, Global Launchpad Founder.

Over the years, Google has worked with some incredible startups across India who are using advanced technologies such as AI/ML to tackle everything from agri-tech to language web, healthcare and transportation.

“With the dedicated India-only Launchpad Accelerator programme, we will be able to build a bridge between startups and the industry ecosystem and support them to drive innovation in the India market,” Glasberg added.

Applications for the first class is open till July 31 and the first class will start in September 2018.

In an effort to mentor emerging start-ups, Google India hosted a four-day boot camp for the first 10 Indian startups as part of its ‘Solve for India’ programme.

The India-focused accelerator programme is building on Google’s “Solve for India” roadshow from last year.

Ten Indian startups were shortlisted from across India which underwent four days in one-on-one consults with experts from Google and mentors from the industry to solve critical product and growth challenges.

“We shortlisted 10 startups from 160 home-grown start-ups by travelling across 15 cities in India, and are now ready to scale this pilot as a dedicated programme for India,” Karthik Padmanabhan, Developer Relations Lead, Google India, said at that time.

The participants were the founders of startups including Nebulaa, Slang Labs, PregBuddy, LegalDesk, PaySack, Vokal, FarMart, Meesho, Pratilipi and M-Indicator.

“Launchpad” regional accelerators are tailored specifically to their local markets, helping startups build great products, Google said.


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Fuel prices hiked for fifth consecutive day



Petrol Price

New Delhi July 9: Petrol and diesel prices on Monday hiked for the fifth consecutive day, according to the Indian Oil Corporation data.

Petrol is being sold in Delhi at Rs.76.36 per litre, as against Rs.76.13 on Sunday, while diesel is being sold at Rs.68.07 per litre, as against Rs. 67.86 on the previous day.

While in Mumbai, petrol prices increased from Rs. 83.52 on Sunday, to Rs. 83.75 per litre on Monday, and diesel prices from Rs.72 to Rs. 72.23 per litre.

Members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) last month, agreed to jointly increase oil production, which was estimated to be about one million barrels a day.

The deal, which came after days of negotiation, was reportedly aimed at easing fears of a global supply crunch.


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China’s cross-border e-commerce players value India, Middle East markets

The Indian market enjoys a huge population and high potential for economic growth, thus attracting many e-commerce players to expand their presence.




Beijing, July 8 (IANS) :China’s major cross-border e-commerce players put much focus on the Indian and Middle Eastern markets, a report revealed on Sunday.

According to app data provider App Annie, the Indian market enjoys a huge population and high potential for economic growth, thus attracting many e-commerce players to expand their presence, reports Xinhua news agency.

Smartphones are popular in Arab countries and local consumers have strong purchasing power.

But the oil-rich countries lack textiles and other light sectors, offering cross-border e-commerce opportunities for products like apparel.

Alibaba’s AliExpress tops the list, which mainly reviews the performances of third-party business-to-consumer e-commerce platforms targeting overseas consumers.

The report also showed that South American markets pose rising growth potential while developed markets in Europe and the US remain attractive to Chinese e-commerce players.

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