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We have to save democracy, says Chandrababu Naidu after meeting Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata



Kolkata, Nov 19: Amid efforts to cobble opposition against the ruling BJP before the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu on Monday met his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata.

Addressing media after meeting Banerjee, Naidu said that “We had a good discussion. Democracy is in danger, all institutions are under a threat. We want to meet before the parliament session.

“All those who are opposing BJP will come together and chalk out the future course of action”.

He also told media that the opposition has decided to come for the January 19 meeting.

Meanwhile, Banerjee stated “We are totally together, we will walk against the BJP government to save democracy. We’ll meet before the parliament session and chalk out future plan”.

The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister arrived in Kolkata in the afternoon.

Earlier this month, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief visited New Delhi and called on Congress President Rahul Gandhi,  National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah , NCP leader Sharad Pawar, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, BSP leader Mayawati, Loktrantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav, former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha and CPI leaders D. Raja and S. Sudhakar Reddy.



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.




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



BS Yeddyurappa

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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Sidhu puts Congress, Amarinder on back foot with Pulwama comments; trolled on social media



Navjot Singh Sidhu

Chandigarh, Feb 16 (IANS) Punjab Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has again put the Congress party and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on the back foot with his comments defending Pakistan in the aftermath of the Pulwama terrorist attack on a CRPF convoy which left 49 troopers dead.

Despite the passage of 24 hours after Sidhu made his comments on a popular TV show on Friday and reiterated the same again on Saturday, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has not commented on the the utterances of his minister so far.

Sidhu’s cabinet colleagues in Punjab have also been silent on his comments.

Informed sources in the Chief Minister’s Office said that there was no move to dismiss Sidhu from the Cabinet despite the anger being vented out on him for his Pulwama comments.

Sidhu was dropped from the TV show after a growing clamour on social media seeking his sacking from the show as well as the Punjab council of ministers.

The cricketer-turned-politician sounded a discordant note on Friday, advocating strongly that the dialogue with Islamabad should continue even after the biggest terrorist attack on security forces in Kashmir Valley.

Sidhu, who takes every opportunity to harp on his friendship with Pakistan Prime Minister and former cricketer Imran Khan, had said: “Wherever wars are fought and such things (Pulwama type attack) happen, dialogue also continues simultaneously. There is a need to find a permanent solution (to issues between India and Pakistan).

“Such people (terrorists) have no religion, no country and no caste. When a snake bites, its anti-dote is also snake poison,” Sidhu said, justifying his take on the dialogue between the two nuclear neighbours.

Though Sidhu condemned the Pulwama terror attack on the CRPF convoy, he added that the entire nation (Pakistan) could not be blamed for the actions of a handful people.

“This (attack) should be condemned by all. For a handful people, you cannot blame an entire nation. Those behind the attack must be punished,” Sidhu had said.

Sidhu on Saturday defended his comments claiming that his statement was “deliberately distorted” as the people were scared of him.

In November last year, at least six of the ministers in the Amarinder government had reacted sharply to Sidhu’s comments regarding Amarinder Singh’s leadership made in Hyderabad.

Amarinder himself had made his displeasure known to Sidhu regarding the latter’s visit to Pakistan in November last year. While Sidhu had chosen to go to Pakistan for the ground-breaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor project at the invitation of Pakistan Prime Minister, Amarinder had declined the invitation saying that Pakistan Army was killing Indian soldiers at the Line of Control (LoC) and conspiring to revive terrorism in Punjab.

Amarinder had gone on record to point out that he told Sidhu that he had declined the invite from Pakistan but Sidhu insisted that he would go in his “personal capacity”.

Sidhu, who was a star campaigner for the Congress party last year in the election-bound states of Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Telengana and Rajasthan, had recently raked up another controversy when he indirectly questioned Amarinder Singh’s leadership by commenting that he (Amarinder) was not his (Sidhu’s) captain (leader).

However, Sidhu later clarified that Amarinder was like a “fatherly figure” for him.

Though Amarinder has welcomed the move by India and Pakistan on the Kartarpur Corridor project, he has dubbed the whole affair as a “bigger conspiracy” hatched by the Pakistan Army.

Citing the fact that Pakistan Army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, had “broken the news of opening the Kartarpur Corridor to Navjot Singh Sidhu even before Imran Khan was sworn in as their prime minister”, Amarinder said that the whole affair smacked of a bigger conspiracy.

Sidhu had tried to hog all the limelight on the Kartarpur Corridor project after breaking the news about it in August last year. “The opening of the Kartarpur Corridor is clearly a game plan of the ISI (Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence).

“A bigger conspiracy seems to have been hatched by Pakistan Army against India. Pakistan is attempting to revive militancy in Punjab and thus everyone should be wary of all of its overtures, no matter how grand they appear to be,” Amarinder had said earlier.

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