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LIVE! BJP targets Rahul over ‘Masood Azhar ji’ remark

20:25  BJP targets Rahul over ‘Masood Azhar ji’ remark :  

Congress president Rahul Gandhi was in the eye of controversy after he referred to terrorist and Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as ‘Masood Azharji’.

In a video, Rahul can be seen saying that it was National Security Adviser Ajit Doval who was present when Masood Azhar was being sent back to Kandahar.

Several BJP leaders have lashed out at Rahul.

Smriti Irani took to Twitter to say that Rahul Gandhi and Pakistan have one thing in common — their love for terrorists.

“What is common between Rahul Gandhi and Pakistan? Their love for terrorists. Please note Rahul ji’s reverence for terrorist Masood Azhar – a testimony to #RahulLovesTerrorists,” Smriti said on Twitter.

Even BJP’s Twitter handle posted a video of Rahul Gandhi referring to the terrorist as ‘Masood Azhar ji’.

“Come on “Rahul Gandhi Ji”! Earlier it were the likes of Digvijay Ji who called “Osama Ji” and “Hafiz Saeed Sahab”. Now you are saying “Masood Azhar Ji”. What is happening to Congress Party?” law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tweeted. 

Even as #RahulLovesTerrorists was trending on Twitter, it seems that the Congress chief made the statement in a sarcastic tone, implying that the then NDA government had helped Masood Azhar escape the country.

20:04  CA exams postponed due to Lok Sabha poll :  

The Chartered Accountants examinations have been postponed due to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the council announced on Monday.


“In view of elections to the 17th Lok Sabha Parliamentary Constituencies across the country, spanning April-May 2019, the Chartered Accountants Examinations initially scheduled from May 2-17, stand rescheduled. The said examinations shall now be held from May 27, 2019 to June 12, 2019,” the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India said.

Lok Sabha elections will begin on April 11 and polling would be held over seven phases through May 19, followed by counting of all votes on May 23, the Election Commission announced on Sunday. — PTI

20:03  DGCA to conduct safety assessment of B737 MAX planes in India: Prabhu:  

Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu has asked aviation watchdog DGCA to undertake safety assessment of Boeing 737 MAX planes operated by domestic airlines.


The direction comes a day after a 737 MAX aircraft, operated by Ethiopian Airlines, crashed killing 157 people.

Jet Airways and SpiceJet have 737 MAX aircraft in their fleet.     

In a tweet on Monday, Prabhu said he has directed officials of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to undertake “safety assessment” of Boeing 737-MAX planes being flown by domestic carriers.


“Safety of the passengers is our utmost concern. Directed Secretary and DGCA to take appropriate action immediately,” Prabhu said in a tweet.


The incident on Sunday was the second time in less than five months that a 737 MAX 8 plane crashed. In October 2018, an aircraft operated by Lion Air crashed killing over 180 people in Indonesia. — PTI  


19:42  Choice in LS polls to be either “Modi or chaos”, says Jaitley:  

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Monday the ‘mahagathbandhan’ is a self-destructive coalition of rivals’ and choice before voters in the general elections would be either “Modi or chaos”.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government will be seeking second term as 900 million people are expected to vote in the Lok Sabha elections beginning April 11. Counting of votes will be taken up on May 23.

Several non-BJP parties like the Congress, the SP, the BSP, and the TMC have joined hands to form a grand coalition ‘Mahagathbandhan’ to take on Narendra Modi-led NDA in the forthcoming elections beginning April 11.

“What was promised to be Mahagathbandhan’ is turning out to be a gathbandhan’ of several conflicting gathbandhans. It is a self-destructive coalition of rivals’,” Jaitley said while highlighting the conflicts among the parties in the coailition against BJP-led NDA.

In his blog, he wrote that the leadership issue in the opposition camp is an absolute puzzle. Congress President Rahul Gandhi is an inadequate leader, Jaitley said.


“He is tried, tested and failed. His lack of understanding of issues is frightening. He aspires to be the leader of this chaotic pack”.


The senior BJP leader further said the Opposition alliance is unclear and is absolutely fragile. 

“None of the political parties is capable of any significant number of seats. The alliance will not have a stable nucleus. It has a set of highly ambitious, self-centred and maverick leaders. 

“Barring the Congress and the Left, most of them have done political business with the BJP in the past. Their ideologies and commitment to their constituents are widely different,” he added.  

On the other, Jaitley said that within the NDA there are no leadership issues. — PTI


18:59  Choose between Mahatma’s India and Godse’s India: Rahul :  

The choice is between Mahatma Gandhi’s India or Godse’s India with love on one hand and hate on the other, Congress president Rahul Gandhi told his party’s booth workers in New Delhi on Monday, a day after the Lok Sabha elections were announced.


In an all out attack against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gandhi flayed him on a host of issues such as the Rafale deal, employment generation, national security and alleged agrarian distress. 


“You have to decide, you want Gandhi’s India or Godse’s India. On the one hand there is love, brotherhood, on the other is hate, fear. Gandhi ji was fearless, stayed in jail for years, but spoke with the British with love, while (Veer) Savarkar wrote letters to Britishers apologising and asking to be let off,” he said.


He said Modi keeps talking about Make in India, but his shirt, shoes and phone, with which he takes selfies, are made in China.

Gandhi said 40 CRPF personnel were killed in the Pulwama terror attack carried out by the Jaish-e-Mohammed whose chief Masood Azhar was released from jail by the BJP.

“Two of our prime ministers were martyred. We don’t bow before anyone,” he said.

He also urged booth workers to work hard and win all seven seats in Delhi. — PTI 

18:21  Oppn parties question staggering of LS polls in Bihar:  

Opposition parties in Bihar on Monday questioned the Election Commissions decision to spread Lok Sabha polls in the state over seven phases and alleged that voting has been staggered with a view to enabling  extensive

electioneering by the ruing NDAs main crowd-puller — Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


The state has only 40 Lok Sabha seats and as per the schedule announced on Sunday, only four parliamentary constituencies each will go to polls in the first couple of phases followed by five each in the next three phases. Votes will be cast in the remaining 17 in the last two phases.


It is strange that the number of phases over which voting will be held in Bihar is the same as that of the neighboring Uttar Pradesh where the number of seats is twice as many. In West Bengal too, which has only 42 seats, polling will be held in seven phases, RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwary said.


He said even in a state like Karnataka, where voting was held in a single phase five years ago, this time there are two phases. It appears the EC has worked out its schedule keeping in mind the convenience of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is the NDAs main crowd-puller and needs to campaign extensively in states where the BJP is not on a very strong footing. Be that as it may, this raises a question on the impartiality of

the poll panel. 


Echoing similar views, Congress leader Prem Chandra Mishra said in a state having 40 seats, voting could have been completed easily in four phases. Such a staggered poll schedule seems irrational. The only purpose it may serve is to enable the Prime Minister to reach out to a larger number of constituencies.


A statement to this effect was also issued by former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhis Hindustani Awam Morcha, which quit the NDA and joined the Grand Alliance spearheaded by the RJD-Congress combine last year.


In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections polling was held in six phases in Bihar and in five phases in West Bengal out of a total of nine phases.


However, chief minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United, an NDA ally, dismissed the opposition charge.


JD-U spokesman Sanjay Singh said there is no scope for ifs and buts once the EC has announced the polls. The opposition is jittery as it is devoid of issues. So sometimes they raise questions on the armed forces and sometimes on the Election Commission. — PTI


17:41  Plea in SC seeks ban on roadshows, bike rallies during polls:  A former DGP of Uttar Pradesh and an environmentalist have urged the Supreme Court to direct the Election Commission to ban roadshows and bike rallies during polls, saying they violate EC’s instructions and cause damage to the environment. 

The plea, filed by former director general of police Vikram Singh and environmentalist Shaivika Agrawal, was mentioned for urgent listing on Monday before a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna. The bench, however, refused to accord urgent listing. 

In their plea, the petitioners have said roadshows and bike rallies during election period cause air and noise pollution and traffic jams which result in inconvenience to the general public. The plea, drawn by advocate Virag Gupta, said instructions issued by the Election Commission with regard to roadshows and political processions mandate that vehicles must be registered and a convoy cannot have more than 10 vehicles.

As per EC’s instructions, it added, two convoys must maintain a distance of at least 200 metres, more than half the road cannot be covered, the number of vehicles and persons joining the roadshow has to be intimated to authorities in advance. 

“However, the said instructions have remained on paper and are being violated with impunity by all political parties,” the plea stated. It claimed that modified vehicles, often called “raths”, are being used in these roadshows but they are in contravention to several rules including the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 and Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989.   — PTI


17:35  Samjhauta Express blast: Court reserves order for March 14:  Haryana’s Panchkula court on Monday reserved the order in the Samjhauta Express blast case for March 14. On February 18, 2007, an explosion had occurred in Samjhauta Express in Panipat district of Haryana, claiming the lives of around 68 persons.

Out of the deceased, 33 were male, 19 were female, 10 were male children, and 6 were female children.

“Two unexploded bombs were also recovered from the site,” the National Investigation Agency (NIA) said. “This terrorist act was committed by using Improvised Explosive Devices along with the highly inflammable substances, which caused blasts and consequent fire in the compartments of the train no. 4001 UP Attari (Samjhauta) Express at Panipat, Haryana,” the charge sheet read.

“The Samjhauta Express (Attari) train blast case of 18.02.2007 was a “dreadful terrorist act” in which two powerful bomb blasts were carried out by a group of people in pursuance of a criminal conspiracy with an intent to kill people and further to threaten the unity, integrity, security and sovereignty of India and to strike terror in the people of India and in a foreign country,” the charge sheet said. — PTI

16:51  Boeing 737 MAX planes: DGCA to issue safety instructions for domestic carriers:  Aviation regulator DGCA will soon issue additional safety instructions on Boeing 737 MAX planes for domestic airlines in the wake of the crash of an aircraft in Ethiopia that killed 157 people, a senior official said Monday. 

Earlier in the day, another senior official said the civil aviation ministry would discuss with the DGCA on action that needs to be taken regarding 737 MAX planes being operated in India.

With full-service carrier Jet Airways and budget airline SpiceJet operating 737 MAX planes, the DGCA had decided to seek information about the aircraft from Boeing as well as the two domestic carriers. This is for the second time in less than five months that a Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane crashed. In October 2018, an aircraft operated by Lion Air crashed killing over 180 people in Indonesia. 

A senior DGCA official said the regulator is reviewing “safety issues” post accident of 737 MAX plane in Ethiopia on Sunday. “The DGCA shall issue additional safety instructions tonight or tomorrow morning in this regard for Indian operators,” the official added.

Earlier, a senior civil aviation ministry official told PTI it would discuss with the DGCA on the action that needs to be taken with regard to 737 MAX aircraft. 


16:34  Goyal seeks Rs 750-cr lifeline from Etihad, warns delay may ground Jet Airways:  Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal has sought an urgent funding of Rs 750 crore from its equity partner Etihad, citing “the very precarious” position of the airline following the lingering cash flow issues which got amplified after the forced grounding of over 50 of its planes.

In a letter to the Gulf-based carrier’s group chief executive Tony Douglas, Goyal also said the airline has also secured the go-ahead from the aviation ministry to pledge its shares in JetPrivelege for securing the interim funding. 

The airline holds 49.9 percent stake in the loyalty programme, while the majority is with Etihad. It can be noted that Etihad board is meeting in Abu Dhabi Monday to discuss the resolution plan for Jet in which it owns 24 percent stake since April 2014. — PTI

16:14  Sensex posts biggest gains in 6 months:  The BSE benchmark Sensex soared 383 points to reclaim the 37,000 mark Monday, posting its biggest gain in nearly six months, led by gains in RIL, ICICI Bank and Bharti Airtel amid sustained foreign fund inflow and positive global cues. 

According to experts, investors widened their portfolios amid hopes of a win for the incumbent NDA government, following the announcement of 2019 general election dates Sunday. 

The 30-share Sensex started off on a strong footing and reclaimed the 37,000 mark on widespread buying by investors, and ended at 37,054.10, up by 382.67 points, or 1.04 per cent. 

This is the highest closing level since September 19 last year when it had closed at 37,121.22. The gauge had settled 53.99 points, or 0.15 per cent, lower at 36,671.43 on Friday. 

The NSE Nifty, after climbing to 11,172.40 – its highest since September 26 last year – closed at 11,168.05 points, up 132.65 points, or 1.20 per cent. Power, oil and gas, PSU, metal, banking, auto, capital goods, infrastructure and healthcare sector stocks witnessed heavy buying through the session. 

Experts see this as a pre-poll rally following the announcement of 2019 general election dates. Prevailing geopolitical concerns in the wake of recent India-Pakistan military conflicts will be a key factor in the upcoming general elections that may help incumbent NDA government at the centre, they said. 

Lok Sabha elections will begin on April 11 and will be held over seven phases followed by counting of votes on May 23, the Election Commission announced on Sunday. In afternoon trade, the rupee appreciated 21 paise to 69.93 against the dollar. — PTI


16:11  All snowed in and nowhere to go :  In Himachal Pradesh, fresh snowfall leads to a traffic jam on the Manali-Leh road. This is at Solang in Kullu district. Pretty but would hate to be stuck in this. 


15:39  EC: Polls during Ramzan because full month can’t be excluded:  The Election Commission statement on the controversy over the Lok Sabha elections being held during Ramzan. “During Ramadan, polls are conducted because the full month cannot be excluded. However, the date of the main festival and Fridays are avoided for poll days,” the EIC said. 

Meanwhile, AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi on Monday asked political parties not to create controversy on the issue of holding Lok Sabha polls during Ramzan and said there will be greater participation of Muslim community in the democratic exercise during that period.Speaking to media persons, Owaisi said, “This whole controversy is totally uncalled for and unnecessary. I would request the political parties not to use the Muslim community and Ramzan. One must understand that Ramzan will start in India around May 5 depending on Moon sighting. In the country, the election process has to be completed by June 3. Hence, elections have to be there during the Ramzan. It is not possible to culminate elections by May 5.”Asserting that Muslims, keeping fast during the holy month, continue with their regular schedule of work, Owaisi said: “Muslims will definitely fast in Ramzan and will keep doing their regular work during the fast. They go out and lead a normal life. They work and go to the office. My analysis is that this month which increases spiritualism in Muslims will lead to more voting percentage because I will be free from worldly duties.”   — ANI


14:51  Elections are what stops India from becoming a banana republic:  There is a lot that does not work in India. Despite having the world’s most polluted air, it devotes little urgency to fixing it. It has a weak state capacity to deliver on its ambitious goals.

Its ‘vintage’ military is only just able to ward off terrorists. It has no desire to resolve internal conflicts or border disputes. The judiciary can take literally decades to deliver judgments. It is currently building millions of toilets for its rural poor, who have no sewage lines. The list goes on and on.

Yet there is one thing that keeps India going: elections.


14:04  Verdict in Samjhauta Express blast shortly:  Twelve years after a blast on board the Samjhauta Express, the bi-weekly train that runs between India and Pakistan, a court in Panchkula, is expected to pronounce its verdict today. The case saw a number of twists and turns, with the alleged mastermind found murdered and another out on bail. The NIA interrogated 290 witnesses and 30 among them turned hostile. Early morning on February 18, 2007, a terrible blast on Samjhauta Express killed as many as 68 passengers including many Pakistanis. 


13:59  Imran Khan’s income drops sharply by Rs 3.09 crore!:  
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s net income has dropped sharply by Rs 3.09 crores in the last three years even as the income of some Opposition leaders continued to rise, according to a media report on Monday.  This is possibly the first time that the income of a politician holding office has fallen.

The cricketer-turned politician’s net income in the year 2015 was 3.56 crore Pakistani rupees, it dropped sharply to Rs1.29 crore in 2016 and further down to Rs 0.47 crore in the year 2017, Dawn newspaper reported.

In 2015, a major chunk of Khan’s income comprised the gain of a little over Rs 0.1 crore from the sale of an apartment in Islamabad, followed by Rs 980 crore of foreign remittances, the report said citing official documents.

In 2016, his total income dropped to Rs 1.29 crore of which he earned Rs 0.74 crore from “foreign services” alone. In contrast, the income of the Leader Opposition of the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif continued to see an upward trend as his net income rose from Rs 0.76 crore in 2015 and crossed Rs 1 crore in 2017.

Former president Asif Ali Zardari’s agricultural income that comprises most part of his net income stood at Rs 10.5 crore in 2015. It rose to Rs 11.4 crore in 2016 and surged to Rs 13.4 crore in 2017. He holds 7,748 acres of land. 

While Zardari’s son Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari appears richer than him in terms of assets he holds in Pakistan and elsewhere, he lags behind the father in terms of income, according to the documents. — PTI


13:54  Notices to Saif, Sonali, Neelam… in Black Buck case :  The past comes to haunt them just when they thought they had put it behind them. The Jodhpur High Court issues a notice to Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Neelam Kothari, Tabu and Dushyant Singh on an appeal by state govt challenging their acquittal in the black buck case by a local court in Rajasthan.

13:33  Schools in Kashmir open after 3-month winter vacation:  Schools in Kashmir opened Monday after remaining closed for more than three months for winter vacations. The schools in the region were closed in December last year for winter vacations and were scheduled to reopen on March 5. 

However, the government decided to extend the winter vacation by a week in view of the inclement weather. The schools in Kashmir close usually for two and half months for winter vacation, while summer vacations are limited to a week or 10 days. — PTI

13:19  INX Media case: HC allows CBI to submit additional documents in Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail plea:  The Delhi High Court Monday allowed a plea by the CBI for taking on record additional submissions in the anticipatory bail plea of former Union minister P Chidambaram in connection with the INX media case. Justice Sunil Gaur took the submissions on record and again reserved the order on the anticipatory bail of the senior Congress leader. 

The court had earlier on January 25 reserved its order on Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail plea in the cases lodged by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate.

In the INX Media case, the CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017 alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance granted to the media group for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram’s tenure as finance minister in the UPA I government.

The ED lodged a money laundering case in this regard last year. In its application filed through central government standing counsel Ripu Daman Bhardwaj, the CBI said it wanted to file additional submission regarding ongoing investigation in larger interest of justice. 


12:37  10% quota for economically weak: SC to hear matter on March 28:  The Supreme Court on Monday said it is not in favour of passing an order at this stage to refer the issue of 10 per cent quota for economically weaker sections across all classes to a Constitution bench.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it will hear the plea on March 28 and will consider whether the matter is required to be referred to a constitution bench. 

The bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, asked senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who was appearing for the petitioner, to file a short note of the points which they have raised in their application. — PTI


11:57  Swaraj assures help to families of Indians killed in Ethiopian Airlines plane crash:  External Affairs Minister Swaraj Swaraj Monday assured all help to the families of the four Indians killed in the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash and directed Indian missions in Ethiopia and Kenya to ensure assistance is provided to them. 

Four Indians, including a UN consultant attached with the Environment Ministry, were among the 157 people killed when a Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed after taking-off from Addis Ababa on Sunday.

The deceased Indian nationals were Shikha Garg, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) consultant attached with the Environment Ministry, Pannagesh Bhaskar Vaidya and Hansini Pannagesh Vaidya and Nukavarapu Manisha. 

Responding to a relative from the Vaidya family, Swaraj said: “I have spoken to the son of Mr Vaidya in Toronto. I am shocked you have lost six members of your family in air crash. My heartfelt condolences. I hv asked Indiain Embaasy in Kenya and the India Embassy in Ethiopia to reach you immediately. They will provide help and assistance in respect of all your family members.”

Replying to a tweet from a relative of N Manisha, the minister said she has asked the Indian High Commissioner in Nairobi, Rahul Chhabra, to provide them all help and assistance. Swaraj said she is trying to reach the family of Shikha Garg.  “I have tried her husband’s number many times. Please help me reach her family,” she said. 

The Boeing 737 crashed minutes after an early-morning takeoff from Addis Ababa, killing all eight crew and 149 passengers on board, including tourists, business travellers, and Garg, who was on her way to attend a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) meeting. — PTI

Image: The site of the the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash. Pic: Reuters

11:34  UN chief “deeply saddened” at loss of lives in Ethiopian Airlines plane crash:  UN chief Antonio Guterres has condoled the death of over 150 passengers, including four Indians and 19 UN staff members, on board a Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines plane which crashed minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa. 

The Boeing 737 took-off from Bole International Airport on Sunday and “lost contact” six minutes later before coming down near Tulu Fara village outside the Ethiopian town of Bishoftu, killing all eight crew and 149 passengers on board, including tourists and business travellers. People from 35 countries were reportedly on board the flight ET 302 when it ploughed into a field, 60-kilometre southeast of Addis Ababa. 

According to the Indian Embassy in Ethiopia, the four deceased Indian nationals are Vaidya Pannagesh Bhaskar, Vaidya Hansin Annagesh, Nukavarapu Manisha and Shikha Garg, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) consultant attached with the Environment Ministry. 

Secretary-General Guterres said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened at the tragic loss of lives” as it emerged that UN staff were also among the dead. In a statement issued by his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric on Sunday, Guterres conveyed his “heartfelt sympathies and solidarity to the victims’ families and loved ones, including those of the United Nations staff members, as well as sincere condolences to the Government and people of Ethiopia”. 

According to the UN Department of Safety and Security in Kenya, 19 UN staff members perished in the crash. — PTI


11:30  Ethiopian Airlines grounds Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet after crash :  Ethiopian Airlines has grounded its Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet after the air crash that killed 149 passengers, including four Indians, and eight crew. “Following the tragic accident of ET 302… Ethiopian Airlines has decided to ground all B-737-8 MAX fleet effective yesterday, March 10, until further notice,” the state-owned carrier said in a statement released on Twitter. 

The airlines said that although it had idea about the cause of the accident, they had decided to ground the fleet as a precautionary measure. 

All 157 people on board died when Nairobi-bound Flight ET 302 came down just six minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa.  

China also grounded its fleet of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 in the aftermath. Among the dead were tourists, business travellers, and UN staff headed for a conference.

The Ethiopian plane had been delivered to the company in November and was one of 30 meant for the airlines. The jet’s last maintenance was on February 4, and it had flown just 1,200 hours.

The jet showed unstable vertical speed after takeoff, reports say. The senior Ethiopian pilot, who joined the airline in 2010, sent out a distress call and was given clearance to return to the airport, the airline’s CEO told reporters.

11:09  All of it is fake. All of it is news:  There’s a teetar caught in the dogfight which is not really a fight between dogs. Wonder why they call it a dogfight when there are no dogs involved at all. Perhaps another way of giving a dog a bad name? Who can tell? But a dogfight it is and dogs are not involved. That much can be reliably said. Even Sources, those most reliable of all things, have affirmed to us that no dogs are involved in dogfights. Sources have told us so many reliable things these past days, we have been told there should be no room to question them.

Question Sources and you are questioning the Nation. Actually questioning many things is now deemed the same as questioning the Nation. If you ask a question you may be told you are questioning the Nation before you finish asking the question. Don’t question. Stop questioning. You are questioning the Nation. Your nationality is in question. And that’s not such a good thing.

Sankarshan Thakur on nationalism and nationality. Read the column here. 


10:56  Padma Shri for S Jaishankar :  President Ram Nath Kovind confers the Padma Shri upon former foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar at Rashtrapati Bhawan. 


10:46  Election difficult for those observing Ramzan, BJP does not wants minorities to vote: Kolkata Mayor:  
Trinamool Congress leader and Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim has said the lengthy schedule of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, will be arduous for those observing Ramzan in the states of Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.  

Ramzan, observed by Muslims as a month of fasting, will likely coincide with the seven-phase election schedule. The Kolkata Mayor also lambasted BJP on the issue and said, “BJP doesn’t want minorities to cast their votes.”

Speaking to ANI on Sunday, Hakim said, “Election Commission is a constitutional body and we respect them. We don’t want to say anything against them. But the 7-phase election will be tough for people in Bihar, UP and WB. It will be most difficult for those who will be observing Ramzan at that time.”  


10:38  Ayodhya dispute: The mediation trap:  “The Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute has long been accompanied by a sense of foreboding. The dispute has been historically charged, politically divisive and communally violent, putting both the nation and the Constitution at risk.

“So putting the dispute into mediation under the aegis of the Supreme Court evokes a resigned weariness. For decades, the Court abdicated its role and is now openly admitting that conventional legal and constitutional tools are powerless in the face of faith. So it is placing its hopes for ‘reconciliation’ on mediation. The keenness to take this issue off the agenda is such that all parties hope India can move past the Ayodhya moment. It is hard to grudge an attempt at ‘reconciliation’.” 

Read Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s column here 


10:05  Cong wants Manmohan to contest from Amritsar, ex-Pm says he’s too old:  Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, state affairs in-charge Asha Kumari and Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president Sunil Kumar Jakhar on Sunday met former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh at his residence in New Delhi and urged him to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Amritsar, The Indian Express reports.

Sources told newspaper that Dr Singh was “not very enthused’ by the idea and is learnt to have told the delegation that he was too old to contest. The three leaders went to him after the screening committee meeting organised to shortlist poll candidates from the state. 

The Punjab CM said told Dr Singh that he would just need to come to Amritsar to fill the nomination papers and that he (the CM), would personally look after his campaign by staying put in Amritsar. Congress has a sitting MP from the holy city.

The leaders are learnt to have conveyed to Dr Singh that a number of MLAs had made an appeal to the party for his candidature from Punjab as it would galvanise the Congress campaign in the state. 

10:00  Sensex soars 233 points in pre-poll rally:  Equity benchmark Sensex surged over 233 points 36,904 in early trade on Monday, which is seen by experts as a pre-poll rally following the announcement of 2019 general election dates. 

Similarly, the NSE gauge Nifty rose over 75 points to scale past 11,110 level. The BSE Sensex started off on positive note at 36,741.57 and furthered its gains to trade at 36,904.81, rising 233.38 points, or 0.64 per cent, in early trade. 

The broader Nifty opened at 11,068.75 and extended its rise to 11,110.95, gaining 75.55 points, or 0.68 per cent. Experts said that prevailing geopolitical concerns in the wake of recent India-Pakistan military conflicts will be a key factor in the upcoming general elections that may help incumbent NDA government at the Centre. 

With the Election Commission of India announcing dates for the much-awaited 2019 general elections, market analysts say a pre-poll rally is likely to continue, citing historical data which suggests a positive trend in the stock market in case the incumbent returns to power. 

Last week, the 30-share Sensex settled 53.99 points, or 0.15 per cent, lower at 36,671.43, while the broader NSE Nifty slipped 22.80 points, or 0.21 per cent, to 11,035.40. During the week, the Sensex gained 607.62 points or 1.68 per cent; and the Nifty advanced 171.9 points or 1.58 per cent. — PTI


09:24  China grounds Boeing 737 MAX planes after Ethiopian air crash:  

The Chinese government has grounded all Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets, after an Ethiopian Airlines plane of the same model crashed shortly after take-off killing everyone onboard.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China said in a statement on Monday morning that all domestic Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets would be out of action until 6 pm local time, due to its principle of “zero tolerance for safety hazards.”

The Ethiopian Airlines incident was the second time in less than six months that a new Boeing aircraft has crashed just minutes into a flight. A Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight went down over the Java Sea in late October, killing all 189 people on board.

“Given in both air crashes, the aircrafts were newly delivered Boeing 737 MAX 8, and both accidents occurred during the take-off, they share certain similarities,” the administration said in a statement.

China has one of the world largest fleets of Boeing 737 MAX 8, operating 97 of the planes, according to Chinese state-run media.


09:04  Candidate photos on EVMs, VVPATs at all booths among firsts this election:  

Voters in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections will find, for the first time, the faces of the candidates along with their respective party symbols in the electronic voting machines, the Election Commission announced as it released the seven-phase schedule of the worlds largest democratic exercise.

The commission has introducing a slew of new or improved measures as it aims to make the elections free, fair and transparent – with a dash of eco-friendliness thrown in for good measure. The poll panel announced that for the first time Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail will be used in all EVMs.

In a bid to dissuade leaders with proven criminal records, chief election commissioner Sunil Arora said that contestants with criminal antecedents would be required to publish information in this regard in newspapers and through television channels on three occasions during the campaign period.The political party to which the candidate with criminal antecedents belongs is also required to publish such information about the candidate, both on its website and also in newspapers and television channel on three occasions, Arora added.

Arora also explained at length how the poll panel has integrated use of smart technology in different election processes such as the cVIGIL app, which helps people record any violations of poll norms on their Android smartphones and report them to the EC. 

Another app, Samadhan, has been made available during both the election and non-election period to help lodge a grievances.


08:38  Pompeo to meet Foreign Secretary Gokhale on Monday:  

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale on Monday, during which the two officials are likely to discuss bilateral, regional and global issues of common interest.

Gokhale arrived in the US on Sunday in connection with the bilateral Foreign Office Consultation and Strategic Security Dialogue with his American counterparts, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson.

While his US trip was scheduled much before the February 14 Pulwama terrorist attack, Gokhale’s meeting with Pompeo and his counterparts here this week is expected to gain media spotlight in view of the escalated tension between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the air strike at a terrorist camp deep inside Pakistan and subsequent developments.

Tensions between India and Pakistan flared up after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel in Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

India launched a counter-terror operation in Balakot on February 26. The next day, Pakistan air force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 and captured its pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, who was handed over to India on Friday.

US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino, during his bi-weekly news conference last Tuesday, said Pompeo played an “essential role” in de-escalating tensions between India and Pakistan.

“Secretary Pompeo led diplomatic engagement directly, and that played an essential role in de-escalating the tensions between the two sides,” he had then said.

According to Pompeo’s schedule for Monday released to the media, the State Department said the meeting between the US Secretary of State and Gokhale is scheduled at 9 am local time or 6.30 pm IST.

Protocol-wise, it is quite unusual for Pompeo to meet Gokhale, but over the last few years, the US Secretary of State has met the Foreign Secretary, including his predecessor S Jaishankar.



07:56  J-K poll delay: Omar calls it abject surrender, Mehbooba says sinister design:  

The mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have questioned the Election Commissions decision to not hold simultaneous assembly elections in the state.

PM Modi has surrendered to Pakistan, to the militants & to the Hurriyat. Well done Modi Sahib. 56 inch chest failed, tweeted former Chief Minister and NC vice-president Omar Abdullah. First time since 1996, assembly elections in J&K are not being held on time. Remember this the next time you are praising PM Modi for his strong leadership, he tweeted.

In a series of tweets, he blamed the central government for mishandling the situation in the state. In 2014, we had Lok Sabha elections on time & assembly elections on schedule even after the most devastating floods. Shows how badly the BJP & earlier the BJP-PDP mishandled J&K, he said. Balakote & Uri are not symbols of PM Modis handling of national security; J&K is and look at the mess he has made there. The abject surrender to anti-India forces is a crying shame. With the amount of international attention elections in J&K attract, I never thought PM Modi would be willing to confess his failure on a global stage

PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: Decision to hold only parliamentary elections in J-K confirms sinister designs of GoI. Not letting people elect a government is antithetical to the very idea of democracy. Also a tactic of buying time to dis-empower people by pushing an agenda that suits their ulterior motives.

Source: Rediff